- A confusing and difficult problem or question
- A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its’ answer, a riddle.
Jesus messes with us in His teachings.
In Matthew 18, just after Jesus had taught about how to handle a brother or sister who had sinned against you (which, by the way, is rarely ever ever ever done all the way to completion, tsk), Peter inquired, “Lord, how many times should I forgive a brother or sister who has sinned against me? Up to seven times?”
“No, not seven times, you ignoramus [editor’s interpretation here], but seventy-seven times [or seventy-times seven, depending upon the translation you are reading].”
Jesus knows good and well that we’ll never ever even know when we hit that mark because He has also called us to a love so pure, so deep, that it keeps no record of wrong (see that stinking 1 Corinthians 13 chapter).
Even the Old Testament (which Jesus often quotes!) taught about selfless love:
Leviticus 19.18 NIV “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.'”
Jesus took it further, though, on the topic of enemy-loving:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5.43-45a NIV
Nothing about the age in which we live makes forgiveness an easy choice: ever. We do everything bigger, faster, louder – including causing offense or being offended. And these days you can’t even just walk away from offense. Social media has broken barriers that make your life and misery public and ongoing. How can we keep up with this forgiveness part when the offense is repeating at breakneck speed?
Then Jesus makes it worse.
He actually ties our forgiveness towards others with being forgiven by God for our own offenses.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6.14-16
So, let me get this straight…
When some one sins against me (against me), I have to go to them to try to make it right – several times, in case it isn’t working at first. And that is just for the first offense. Then, if they KEEP offending and sinning against me, I am suppose to forgive them, minimally, 70 times, but I can’t know when we hit the end or that would expose the fact that I have been keeping a list. Dang. He has got me coming and going.
I have no choice but to forgive, to choose forgiveness again and again and again. Just like my Father has had to do with me, again and again, and again, and oh yes, -again. And I have to let the list go, just like my Father has done for me – and if He hadn’t, I would seriously be doubled-over, unable to look Him in the eye, the weight of my sin so heavy.
Psalm 130.3,4 NIV
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
Stormie Omartien (for whom my daughter, Stormie, is named) wrote this in a book I first read 30 years ago, I think. And I have never forgotten this:
“Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it just sets you free.”
I have experienced enough to know these things:
ONE: Forgiveness cannot be demanded or expected. When you get it, you had better be grateful because it is a gift. Forgiveness is for giving. Not taking.
TWO: Give it. Because it will set you free. Don’t give it and you will be the one in chains. Don’t ask me how I know..
TWO: Too many times to count in life, you may not be forgiving a repentant person. You may be giving the forgiveness just as a gift to yourself. It is cutting the painful tie, cancelling the debt. It is saying, “I don’t need you to fix this. God is the strength of my heart. I am cancelling your debt toward me.” How much more like Jesus could we ever hope to possibly be???
You set them free, but you start to soar. It would be cool if wrongful actions toward us brought repentance, but it just doesn’t always happen. So look them in the eye and choose to forgive them the way God does when He sees your sin and says “What Jesus did has already paid your debt.”
THREE: And hey, can I just tell you something I was never told, and in fact, was probably taught in great error in the church growing up? You can forgive some one, bless them, treat them in a godly manner, and still not enter into the same relationship you once had with them. Of course as Christians we want reconciliation, but it doesn’t have to happen the minute forgiveness happens. You can take the bull by the horns and determine to forgive. And you can wait as long as it takes for the Holy Spirit to direct a reconciliation.
I hate how I have been spiritually coerced into doing both simultaneously, told that I have’t truly forgiven if everything isn’t just peachy in 5 minutes, if life doesn’t pick right back up where it was 5 minutes later. That is bull-crap. If God does it instantaneously, shout some praises. If He is teaching you (and probably the other person) some deep stuf and it takes awhile, so be it. God is good and tenderhearted towards us and not nervous and not in a hurry. You DO what the Holy Spirit tells you to do, but do NOT jump through quasi-spiritual hoops to make other people happy.
NOTE: That whole thing I just told you: gold. And I seriously have had ministry positions that to say that aloud would have been the end for me.
FOUR: You won’t actually forget what happened. Forgiveness is hard stuff. It does not guarantee the “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.” Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting it ever happened. Don’t let the devil condemn you on that. It is ok to still remember because then you get the chance to choose to for-give again and every single time YOU will win the prize of it!
FIVE: Forgiveness is not minimizing the injury or pretending you were not really hurt. Good grief, how can we learn if we are not exploring what happened? It is absolutely ok to look at the size of the agony so you’ll understand the strength you need in for-giving. We can forgive the debt when we know the cost. It happened, it will take something of us to face it. It is a-OK to say that out loud and not pretend everything is just fine.
“Betrayal is something others do to you, but bitterness is something you do to yourself.”
My plan is to finally, wholly get/understand forgiveness before I die, or Jesus returns, whichever. Meantime, I am going to give it so many times I actually lose count and I hope I will get it whenever I need it [frequently] and so somehow, set myself and lots of others free.
Seems almost impossible, but…