BY REV. KURT TRUCKSESS - CROSSWINDS CHURCH
I sat across the room from the couple. The wife was wringing her hands on the couch
"I just can’t forgive," she said. "He broke my heart too many times. He asks for my forgiveness and promises to do better, but a few months later he hurts me again."
When I asked for specifics, not many came to her mind. It was obvious she was wrestling with accumulated wounds, many of which she had forgotten, but the hurt lingered in her heart.
What should she do? What does God want someone to do when they are deeply hurt and it is hard to forgive?
While I know every situation is different, God tell us what to do when we are deeply hurt in Matthew 18.
In that chapter, Peter came to Jesus and asked how often he should forgive someone who sinned against him. Should I forgive him up to seven times?
In that day, Rabbis taught forgiveness should be extended up to three times. Peter thought he was generous at seven.
Jesus looked at it very differently. He told Peter he should not forgive people just seven times but seventy-seven times, or as some translations say, seventy times seven. Jesus' point was that when we are counting the number of times people sin against us, we are not forgiving. We are just delaying our revenge.
As followers of Christ, we are to be completely forgiving of other people, just as God has been completely forgiving of us. Just as God does not throw in our face the sins of our past when he forgives us, we are not to throw in people's face the sins of their past when we forgive them.
Why are Christians to be so forgiving? The answer lies in the good news of Jesus that every Christian holds dear. Jesus explained it this way.
A king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. He brought in one man who owed him money. He owed the king 10,000 "talents." A talent was a unit of money. One talent was the rough equivalent of 6,000 denarii. One denarii was the wage of a day laborer in the ancient world. If you do the math, that means this servant owed the king $6 billion. He was in debt over his head. There was nothing he could do to repay. By all rights, he should have been thrown in prison. The man who could not repay his enormous debt asked the king for patience and more time to repay. Out of pity for this man and his insurmountable debt, the king forgave all of it. That was an amazing act of undeserved kindness from the king.
Later that day, the same servant who was forgiven of his enormous debt found one of his fellow servants that owed him 100 denarii. That is the modern equivalent of $6,000. Since he could not repay that small amount, he had him thrown in prison.
When the king heard the same servant that he forgave the $6 billion threw his fellow servant in jail because he could not repay $6,000, he was furious. He did not have mercy and extend forgiveness to others, like the king had shown mercy and forgiveness to him. As a result, the king threw the servant that owed him $6 billion in jail until he repaid every last penny. Jesus closes the story by saying: "So also my heavenly father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
This is a great picture of the forgiveness we are to have toward others. God sent his son to pay the debt of our sin that we couldn't pay. It was a costly debt. Only the death of God's own son was sufficient to pay the debt of sin that we owed. God forgave us a $6 billion debt. How can we not forgive others the $6,000 debt they owe us?
Since we have been forgiven of so much, we are to be forgiving of much.
Is forgiveness easy? Absolutely not. It is hard. It takes effort to not keep recalling the sin and the hurt. It takes risk to rebuild a marriage. There are no guarantees we will not be hurt again. Nevertheless, we forgive again and again even when people hurt us again and again, because that is what God has done for us through Jesus.
As you read this, I don't know what hurts you face. I don't know how your spouse has hurt you, how your children have hurt you, or how a friend has hurt you. While I don't know how deeply you were hurt, I do know what Jesus says about that hurt.
Extend forgiveness. Don't extend forgiveness out of your own strength, but out of God’s strength. Extend forgiveness from the gratitude you have in your heart for the full and complete forgiveness that God has given to you.
It is interesting that as soon as Jesus ends His teaching in Matthew about forgiveness, He immediately starts teaching about divorce. He says divorce was only granted in the Old Testament because of the hardness of people's hearts. In other words, divorce was granted because people were hard-hearted and unwilling to forgive.
This week, preach the gospel with your life. Extend full and complete forgiveness to someone who has deeply hurt you, like Jesus has done for you.