Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
Sin’s offense hurts. There’s no doubt about it. It wounds indiscriminately, and it is no respecter of persons. Sin builds walls, as it separates and ravishes relationships. Just the sound of the word elicits negative emotion. It is deceptive, carnal, Christless, unfair, sad, and sometimes sadistic. Sin follows a process of desire, conception, birth, maturity, and death. James describes its diabolical development. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). So sin is not to be taken lightly. Certainly its infliction of pain cannot be ignored for long.
Sin invites a response from the one it offends. One option is to fight sin with sin. This is messy and can be long and drawn out. No one (except Satan) really wins when sin battles sin. Sin is rampant, and no one is immune from its consequences. It divides, belittles, and brings on relational suicide. Nonetheless, when you are sinned against, you are to forgive. When someone’s sin assaults your attitude, you are to forgive him. When someone’s sin berates your work, you are to forgive him. When someone’s sin violates your trust or steals your joy or crushes your dreams or steals from you, you are to forgive him. This level of forgiveness is counter-intuitive and countercultural, but it is the way of Christ. Forgiveness is God’s game plan. You will lose if you don’t forgive, for unforgiveness is tortuous to the soul. It is unhealthy to the body and the emotions. Unforgiveness leaves hollow lives in its wake. However, forgiveness is able to let go and let God be the judge.
Forgiveness cuts through the varying degrees of guilt and erases the entire debt. True forgiveness comes from the heart of the one offended (Matthew 18:35b). Forgiveness is not a flippant acknowledgement. It is a sincere removal of anything that is owed. When the offended one forgives, he wipes out the expectation of an apology, the payback, or the change. It is forgiveness, clear and simple. Forgiveness is letting go. It is letting go of the hurt, anger, and shame. When you forgive, you are free. You are free from the shackles of sin. When you forgive, you trust. You trust God to judge others in His time. His judgment is fair and just. God can be trusted with the consequences of sin’s offense.
Continue to forgive others because your heavenly Father continues to forgive you. The Scripture teaches, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Without Christ’s forgiveness, you are lost and undone. Jesus does not deal in forgiveness quotas. The forgiveness of the cross was swift, full, final, and forever. Unlock your relational restraints with the key of forgiveness. Write a letter with tear-soaked ink that documents your forgiveness. Call or e-mail someone today and let them know that because you are forgiven, you forgive them. Set others free with forgiveness, and you will be free. There is freedom in Christ. Forgive fast and forgive often. The forgiveness of Christ is forever.
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© 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.