Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ Matthew 18:21-22 NIV
Have you ever drunk rat poison? I have. Anne Lamott famously wrote, ‘Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.’ I’ve harboured anger and bitterness towards someone who wounded me, hoping to hurt them. It doesn’t work. The more poison I drink, the worse I feel. I may think, a little sip occasionally won’t kill me. But over time, my spiritual and even my physical life will be destroyed, if I refuse to forgive.
In marriage, poison may run in a small, dark underground stream. Perhaps I forgive my partner for all offenses great and small….except for one. I’m glad the Lord doesn’t work that way with me! He is so gracious. I deserve to pay – but he paid instead.
How many times do we forgive? To infinity and beyond. Not that we accept abuse or ignore willful sin, but we forgive. Let’s give those in our circle the gift of total, unstinting forgiveness, and watch healing flow in.
Prayer (as a couple)
Dear Father, it’s so tempting to hold onto one thing we refuse to forgive. Help us as we commit to a relationship of total forgiveness, because that’s how you forgive us.
Prayer (for others)
Lord Jesus, help ______ see into the depths of your love and forgiveness towards them. Heal the poisoned stream and bring new life into their relationships.
‘Our older brother Jesus has paid the debt of sin on the cross. Therefore, no one owes us anything. The more you embrace this truth for yourself the easier it is for you to forgive, and the more objective you can be when you’re helping someone else forgive.’ from Forgiving Forward by Bruce and Toni Hebel