Generous Forgiveness

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven!"

Matthew 18:21

I've often wondered if forgiveness should be the crucial mark of the church. Yes, Jesus said people will know us by our love. But in a sense, forgiveness is a particular expression of love, and it's one that sets apart the people of God from others. Our world, after all, is filled with unforgiveness. Political opponents nurse grudges for years, seeking the time of opportune payback. Victims of violence stew in hatred until they can get revenge. Even families are splintered when they cling to wrongs rather than releasing them.

Jesus calls us to a completely different way of being when someone sins against us. We're to forgive, not just seven times, but "seventy times seven!" Now if you're inclined to count the number of times you forgive someone until you get to four hundred and ninety, you've missed Jesus' point. One might paraphrase what he says this way: "Forgive, and keep on forgiving, and don't stop."

If it seems that Jesus has set the bar too high, don't despair. As he makes clear in the next section of Matthew (18:23-35), we are empowered to forgive lavishly because we have been "super-lavishly" forgiven by God. The more we reflect upon what God has done for us through the cross, the more we'll find the ability to forgive, not just seven times, but seventy times seven times.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are you someone who readily forgives others? Or do you tend to hold grudges? Why? What has helped you to forgive in the past? Are there people in your life whom you need to forgive today? What is keeping you from forgiving them?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you have forgiven me more than I can possibly comprehend. Your forgiveness knows no limit. It conquers every sin, both what is done and what is undone, what is acted upon and what is only dreamed of. Because of what Christ has done for me on the cross, I am fully and finally forgiven. What a wonder!

Yet sometimes I am so stingy when it comes to passing on that forgiveness to others. Oh, I might forgive a first offense, perhaps a second. But repeat offenses tend to stick in my craw. I fear that if I forgive, then those who wrong me will keep doing it. So I grasp my being wronged, and wield it as a weapon, both to defend me and to hurt those who have hurt me. O Lord, forgive me for my unforgiveness. Help me to be so amazed by how you have forgiven me that I am generous in forgiving others.

If there is anyone against whom I am harboring unforgivness today, show me, Lord, so that I might forgive and be set free. Amen.