To Forgive or Not to Forgive, That is the Question.
How many times must I forgive an offender who has sinned against me?
“He has come to me over and over asking me to forgive him, Lord, but isn’t there a point at which I can say, “I’m sorry but I can’t forgive you anymore!”?
Peter asked a similar question in Matthew 18: 21-22 “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.” (NIV) (The CSB as do others record it as 70 times 7.)
Jesus continues the parable, 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
In verse 27, the master not only forgave the debt owed to him by his servant but cancelled it, going well beyond what was asked for. Does that strike a chord? When we have sinned against God and go to Him asking for forgiveness, God hears our plea, knows our hearts, and if we are sincere in our asking, not only forgives us, but cancels our transgression, never to be heard of again.
Forgiving is a requirement for us as Christians! As I see it, we don’t have a choice in deciding whether to forgive or not to forgive someone who has sinned against us. Jesus made it clear in verse 34 that that if we don’t want the wrath of God on us, we need to be readily willing to FORGIVE.
Going on, the ultimate example of forgiveness is found in the person of Jesus Christ himself in Luke 23. As he hung on the cross, enduring excruciating suffering, Jesus uttered these words in verse 23:34: 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”This profound statement shows Jesus' extraordinary capacity for forgiveness, even in the face of betrayal, denial, and crucifixion. It underscores the transforming power of forgiveness, offering a model for believers to aspire towards, no matter what the circumstances.
The call to forgive others is not a suggestion but a fundamental aspect of the Christian character. The parables, teachings, and examples presented in the Bible highlight the transforming power of forgiveness, emphasizing its role in healing relationships, fostering unity, and promoting a just and merciful society. While forgiveness does not eliminate the need for accountability, it offers a path towards reconciliation and spiritual growth. And as we, as believers, seek to emulate God's boundless forgiveness, we participate in a transformative journey that leads to healing, restoration, and a deeper understanding of God’s divine nature.