“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.’” Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
Almost from the moment we said “I do,” my husband and I entered the world of “I didn’t know I was saying ‘I do’ to that!”
Secret sins, past pains and deep wounds unpacked themselves right alongside the newly gifted dishes and “his and hers” towels. We found ourselves living a married life far different than we’d imagined. The plentiful hurts led to plentiful opportunities to practice forgiveness.
From the outside, it looked as though forgiveness flowed freely in our home. But on the inside, something didn’t add up.
As the offenses multiplied, I worked to forgive as best I could. And yet, I never experienced freedom. My lips spoke the language of forgiveness, but my heart felt squeezed by the ever-tightening grip of bitterness.
The tension continued for years until one night, in the prayer room at a conference, God got a hold of me with this ugly, grace-covered truth: I’d been forgiving my husband 90 percent of the way … but holding tightly to the last 10 percent.
In that moment, the root of my soul’s decay became abundantly clear. (And it wasn’t my husband’s offenses!) As God so firmly and kindly revealed, my percentage-based forgiveness wasn’t truly forgiveness at all.
I wonder if you can relate?
Deep hurts have ripped at your heart. You longed to move forward and forgive as Jesus modeled for us, and maybe you thought you had. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by the same person over and over. And you’ve forgiven over and over … yet a lingering, soured sentiment clouds your life.
Like me, you wake up one day and wonder why your heart feels so hard. Haven’t you forgiven enough?
You and I aren’t the only ones who struggle to forgive fully and completely. In the Gospel of Matthew, we see the Apostle Peter asking Jesus where the forgiveness “line” was, so to speak:
“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’” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Much to our shock, Jesus wasn’t prescribing a set number. He didn’t tell us a certain percentage to forgive. When He said “seventy-seven times” (or “seven times seventy” in some translations), He indicated a boundless forgiveness — whole and complete.
Not 90 percent. Not even 99 percent. One hundred percent forgiveness, each time, every time.
True forgiveness says “I release you.” It throws open the doors to the “prison” where we’ve been keeping our offender. Such an act can certainly feel like we’re letting that person off the hook, so it seems natural — fair, even — to hold on to a little resentment for safekeeping.
But as the Word shows us, the truth is clear: We’re called to forgive as Jesus forgave us. And He didn’t simply reduce our debt. He canceled it altogether.
Dear one, I know forgiveness is a hard, hard business. I know it feels excruciating and sometimes even unreasonable in light of the harm we’ve endured. But we must remember God doesn’t ask us to forgive without good reason. He asks us to forgive because He knows it’s the only way to the freedom and restoration our wounded hearts desire!
We cannot be whole while holding on to even one percent of unforgiveness.
With tear-stained cheeks and a shaky voice, I called my husband that night after the prayer room, pouring out a confession of my bitterness and resentment. With God’s tender help, I opened my hands and forgave my husband fully — and asked for the same in return. Finally, my heart experienced the deep and abiding freedom it had been missing.
So today, let us walk into that freedom by extending full and complete forgiveness to our offenders. Let us find release from bitterness and healing for our souls. The Savior who forgave us — even while hanging on a cross — will faithfully empower us to do the same.
That’s a promise we can count on, 100 percent of the time.
Dear heavenly Father, oh how our hearts struggle to forgive wholly and fully. We thank You for demonstrating such forgiveness by graciously extending it to us. Help us forgive freely and let go of bitterness, and grant us the strength to trust Your way is best. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Psalm 86:5, “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” (ESV)
Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (NIV)
You know that dream you have? The one to write, speak or lead in ministry? What if 2020 is the year you take the next step in becoming the writer, speaker or leader God is calling you to be? We would love nothing more than to take that next step with you at She Speaks Online! Our new communicators conference will equip and empower you in what God is calling you to do. Take the next step, and join us July 31-August 1!
Connect with Meredith Houston Carr on Instagram, and head to her blog to grab a free download of “A Prayer of Forgiveness for the Wounded Heart.”
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Who in your life are you struggling to fully forgive? Leave a comment, and let us know how we can pray for you!
© 2020 by Meredith Houston Carr. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries believes the Bible is clear about the sins of racism and injustice. To read our full response, click here.