January 22, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“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. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 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. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 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. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.” But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’”—Matthew 18:21–35 (NIV)
Forgiveness is hard. There’s no getting around that. There reason Jesus talked about it so much is because He knows how complicated relationships can be.
Two years ago, I experienced one of the greatest betrayals of my life from the person I least expected. Has that ever happened to you? This friendship had gotten me through the best and worst of times, and it all fell apart. It was devastating to me. Not only was I losing a friend, but I was suffering because of this massive betrayal.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t handle betrayals easily. I’ll be the first one to tell you that my first instinct is vengeance because I’m a very justice-driven person. However, while God has given me this gift and passion for seeking justice, it can be harmful to others and myself if not kept in check.
As much as I’d love to tell you that it was an easy journey, learning to forgive this friend was extremely difficult. I’m two years down this journey of forgiveness, and there are still days when I have to do it all over again. There are days when I can feel my heart hardening towards the situation, and I begin spiraling down a negative path, but that’s not healthy for me or what God has called me to do. Jesus tells us over and over again to forgive those who transgress us. I think He talks about it so much because He knows how difficult it can be sometimes. But there is no healing without forgiveness.
When sin entered the world, a division was created between our Creator and us because we betrayed Him. So, what did God do? Did He sit and stew up in heaven about how awful and ungrateful we were? No, He made a plan to heal our relationship with Him. He sent His Son to die for our sins so we can be in a relationship with Him and spend eternity with Him in heaven.
That’s exactly how He wants us to approach forgiveness—to find a path for healing. While healing doesn’t always mean re-engaging with the person or situation, it can be done just between you and the Lord. This will not only allow you to move forward without bitterness and resentment, but it will also allow you to leave the hard work to God. He is your greatest defender and, in the end, He wants your healing to be the goal, not staying stuck on how you were wronged.
Pause: Is there someone in your life that you haven’t forgiven? How does that still affect you?
Practice: Take some time in these moments to ask God to soften your heart towards this person or situation. Pray for the ability to forgive and to keep forgiving day by day.
Pray: Father, I ask that You give me the power to forgive those I have allowed to pollute my heart with bitterness and resentment. I release this situation to You to deal with. I ask that You will give this person wisdom and guidance as they move through life. Amen.
Kristen Hollis has served in the Communications Team of Calvary since 2020 as a Senior Copywriter and Editor. She contributes and edits content for Calvary’s digital and promotional initiatives. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Kristen and her husband Zachary enjoy all things musical theatre, vinyl hunting, and having the opportunity to serve Calvary on staff while utilizing their talents.