I watched a movie this week about someone who was struggling with how to forgive someone. We’ve all experienced being hurt, whether intentionally or not, by someone’s words or actions. Also, we’ve all hurt someone, whether intentionally or not, by our words or actions. As Christians, we may be well aware of Jesus’ instructions to Peter in Matthew 19:21-22. “Then Peter came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No!’ Jesus replied, ‘seventy times seven!'”
We read the words of Jesus above and we are taken aback at His instruction. We question, how on earth, does anyone and everyone, forgive in all situations? Why should we forgive cruelties anyway? Some things are just unforgivable, aren’t they?
First of all, let’s take a look at why we should forgive, no matter what. Further down in Matthew 19:33, Jesus says, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” We don’t deserve forgiveness, but we accept it with a thankful heart. We need God’s forgiveness. It frees us to be who we are meant to be in Him. It frees us to let God do His work in our lives. Taking His forgiveness is imperative to quality of life on earth and promise of eternal life after death.
We see why we should forgive, as we, too, are forgiven, but still the question comes — how do I forgive when I’ve been terribly wronged? The answer in found in Philippians 3:12, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.” The key is this: don’t give up trying. Tell Jesus you can’t do it, and ask Him to be your strength. Tell Him you can’t forgive by yourself. Jesus will be what you need Him to be, but do not forget one very important thing — it takes time and repeated efforts.
All too often, Christians get upset because they feel they’ve forgiven someone; then, in shocking surprise, they realize that they’ve taken back the forgiveness they thought they had given. Do they have to start over again? Answer: yes. Forgiving someone, like any other weakness we are trying to overcome, can be a daily effort. Sometimes we have to call out to Jesus to help us several times in a day.
Don’t beat yourself up when forgiving someone is such effort — just don’t quit trying — call out, daily to God, to be your strength and your help. Keep running toward the goal, and like a trained athlete, when you fall down on the track, don’t lay there in defeat, get up and continue the race.