Forgiving others can be tough to do. It’s hard to forgive people who hurt us or frustrate us—he or she has said something or not said something, done something or not done something. The issues can be big or small, life-changing or microslights, from long ago or more recent, a one-off or persistent. The list goes on.
Sometimes we have forgiven a friend or family member and then they carry on behaving in the same way, with whatever it is, and we are expected to forgive them again and again.
Even Jesus’ disciple, Peter, found forgiving others difficult, especially more than once. Or this is what I presume from his question: “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Maybe Peter was tired of always “letting off the hook” the person who constantly caused pain or distress. There had to be a limit.
My son likes to remind me that when he was younger I would tell him saying sorry meant he would try and change his behavior. I’m not sure if there is much wisdom in those words, but I think you can sense a mother’s frustration.
It is true that we have a hard time forgiving someone again and again. “Why should I keep forgiving the person?” We ask. They haven’t changed yet and are probably not going to change. “Does that person not know what he or she is doing to me, how much he or she is hurting me?”
However we may feel, the Bible instructs us to forgive others. Jesus made it clear: You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part (Matthew 6:14).
Forgiveness is important, and non-negotiable. And along with that instruction we are given the reason why and an encouraging truth—God says “I have forgiven you.” And it’s not just a one-off forgiveness, but constant, again and again,.
Jesus’ instruction can make us feel uncomfortable. It’s all very well (and this is not meant to be irreverent) but as the Son of God, isn’t forgiving easy to do?
Yet, because Jesus has been tempted like we have then I have to believe he felt tempted, when on earth, not to forgive. And if we think he can’t possibly understand what that person has done to you and me, then we have to remember he was hounded, abused, spat on, mocked, physically battered until unrecognizable, and then killed by a horrible, cruel, and painful method. Yet through it all, Jesus was able to say “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Now Jesus is in the presence of God right now interceding for us (Romans 8:34). In other words, pleading with God the Father for our forgiveness. We might think those who hammered the nails in place, forced the crown of thorns on his head, and who spat in his face did not deserve forgiveness, but we have to remember that it’s for our wrongdoing that he was nailed to the cross.
So, no matter how hard it is and what has been done to us, we are to forgive just as we have been forgiven.
I have to admit
I find it hard to forgive
the person who hurts me,
especially when it happens
again and again.
I don’t want to forgive him/her
because it’s like letting him/her
off the hook.
God, help me realize
how much you have forgiven me
give me your supernatural strength
just like you have
through your Son Jesus.
Struggling in your relationships? In this small book, you will learn how to talk to God who understands relationships both perfect and imperfect. Click here to order your copy of Tough to Love.