Following up on yesterday's blog, if you don’t know the following story, you should and maybe commit to memory:
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)
After teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Christ went on to say, “For if you forgive men their sins against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins against you, neither will your Father forgive yours.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
These are words written in red in many Bibles, and as I am a “red letter” man, I take them seriously. I know it is frequently very hard to forgive, but it is just not an option. I have a friend who survived the holocaust at Auschwitz who says he can never forgive the Nazis. I have counseled many going through divorces who cannot forgive the understandably truly rotten and mean behavior of their spouses. It’s very hard to forgive those whom you loved and trusted yet betrayed you and hurt you. God never said it would be easy, just worth it. It’s a hard thing to do, but the hard thing to do is also almost always the right thing to do. Going back to yesterday’s blog, if God can forgive the unforgivable in you, how can you not forgive those who have hurt you or your family? The other thing you can do is hate and resent the ones who hurt you, but that is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Hate and resentment will destroy you and your relationships with your loved ones. Forgiveness frees you and gives you life. The choice should not be that hard in the end. Remember that forgiveness doesn’t equal amnesty, bad deeds do get punished. Ethel Kennedy flew to California to forgive the man who assassinated her husband, Bobby, but she did not ask for his release from prison. Your job is to forgive. Consequences will always follow bad behavior—you don’t need to help them along. This is good stuff to know and to do. You’re welcome.