When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he addresses forgiveness. Then in Matthew 18:21 Peter asks how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? That's a good question. Seven is the number of completion so that should be the end of that relationship! But Jesus says no, seventy times seven and then goes on to discuss a parable about a servant who was forgiven his debt. However, he went out and immediately grabbed a fellow that owed him a pittance in comparison, demanding restitution to the point of putting him in jail until he could pay him back.
Forgiveness is a gift and can be given. The key in this parable is mercy. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. The master had pity on the servant and forgave the debt, cancelling it and let him go. So often when someone has hurt us we don't want to let the hurt go. We want our rights, our pound of flesh, revenge! We think that will make us feel better but in actuality all it does is put us in prison within our minds.
I think it is interesting that Peter asks the question about our brothers and sisters. These are the people we are in relationship with. They are the ones that we let into our lives and have access to us. They are often the ones that can hurt us the most. When we were first married and Jim did something that offended me, I would just brood, bubble and boil. It was ‘speak to the hand’ because I am not listening! I was not forgiving. I was trying to process and stuff. Then I learned the power of forgiveness. When I get hurt, I begin the process of healing by forgiveness. It doesn't matter how I feel, what matters is the choice I make to forgive. Jesus said forgive. He didn't say if you feel like it, if the person apologises, or if the mood is correct. He said forgive and you will be forgiven. It doesn't mean that what the other person did or said was right but you choose to forgive.
Often people don't even know they have offended or hurt us. That doesn't matter. The matter is you and that you forgive. I begin this process by speaking it out of my mouth, which isn't necessarily to the person. Once I speak out these powerful words they begin to work in the heart and that releases bitterness from taking root.
The bottom line is that if you don't forgive you are the one that suffers. You end up in prison in your mind and your life ends up being bitter. That is why forgiveness liberates the soul and is such a powerful weapon. Use this weapon as often as you need to, it will never loose its potency!
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