Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lent, Day 21

" 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.' " Matthew 18:21b-22, NASB

I cannot tell a lie. This verse has caused me to struggle more than just about any other verse in Scripture. It seems so much easier to allow the pain to hang around, wallow in the grief and hurt, and just mull over how much at fault the other person was, whenever I have been wronged. There are certain people in my life who have hurt me repeatedly. Most of them, I haven't seen in years. But when certain topics come up in conversation, or I sit and reminisce about the past, all that pain still sits deep inside me, just waiting to rise up and make me cry out, "You're unfair! You caused me so much pain, and you never even asked my forgiveness!"

But we have to remember that Jesus didn't say, "As many times as they ask for forgiveness, you must forgive." There is actually nothing said about the other party repenting at all. It is simply stated that we must forgive. That's hard to do, isn't it? I want to go to God and say, "But why should I forgive them? They're not even sorry!" Or, in other situations, "They're not really sorry, though, God! They keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expect me to just keep forgiving them!"

There are no qualifications on what Jesus said, though. We must simply forgive. Period.

In another passage of Scripture, the author writes about not allowing a root of bitterness to take root in our hearts. "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled..." (Hebrews 12:14, 15, NKJV). The longer we hang onto an unforgiving spirit, and let it fester inside us, that pain becomes like some super-powered mulch which causes roots of bitterness to sink deep into our soul, growing faster and deeper the more we wallow in that pain. Forgiveness is like spiritual Round-Up. It kills the outward "plant" of anger and injury, and goes all the way to the root of bitterness, snuffing out its existence.

And just another thought on forgiveness. We may fool ourselves into thinking that by not forgiving the person, we are wounding them. Hardly. We are hurting ourselves, and our relationships, but not the person at fault. Forgiveness is the healing balm we need.

My offering to God: I will forgive those who have repeatedly offended me, just as Christ forgives me.

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