It is easy to hold unforgiveness in our heart. When a person hurts us then it becomes in our nature to hold a grudge. Forgiveness may be difficult, but Christians are expected to be different than others. It is not only possible, however, but it is expected of us. Forgiveness requires faith.
“Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Peter may have thought he was being generous by offering to forgive someone seven times. He understood a disciple of Christ must forgive others. He did not ask Jesus IF one should forgive. He asked, “how many times?” The question Peter asked Christ reflects that he already knew he must forgive. The answer the Lord gives might have taken Peter by surprise. Peter should have known by this point that Jesus does not give simple “yes” or “no” answers to questions. This time was no exception.
“Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:22) When considering the original Greek language, the Greek is LXX and gives an allusion to the limitless forgiveness that Christ expects of His disciples. Christ was telling Peter that all of Jesus’ followers must reflect the forgiveness and mercy extended to us by Christ. When we seek forgiveness from the Lord, we receive it. Jesus expects us to not only forgive those who ask for our forgiveness, but He expects us to give it regardless of if the offender seeks forgiveness.
It is often said that unforgiveness hurts us more than the one who harmed us. It is true. We place ourselves in a prison of destruction while the offender goes free. Forgiveness sets us free. It opens the door of prison and allows us to walk out and into the light of Christ. There are various ways we can forgive others. Regardless of whatever we find that helps us forgive, we must forgive.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
Forgiving others for harms done to us sets us apart from the natural reaction of those not serving Jesus. The light of forgiveness we offer others not only frees us from the chains of unforgiveness, but it shines to all those around us. It shows we are children of God. Forgiveness may be hard, but it is not impossible.