Posted by: mikenicholsblog | July 15, 2012

not 3, not 7, but every

On the mental highway that we all travel, a litter of broken promises, harsh words, painful memories and wounded relationships can be found. What we choose to do with the litter will without a doubt guide our emotions and be evident on our spiritual journey. No traveler is exempt! All of us have heard the words, “I’ll forgive but I will never forget.” And when considering the unwanted pain and hurt that others have caused us, we’ve all thought; “there is a limit to how much I will take.” My personal experience has led me to believe that one of the greatest emotional struggles anyone faces is with forgiveness. It is obvious that when I offend or hurt someone, I am all in on being forgiven. But when someone has wounded me….well, forgiveness then becomes a different story. C.S. Lewis said: Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have something to forgive

In studying a parable on forgiveness during the last week, I have been struck by the words that Peter asked that caused Jesus to share a story.  Peter’s words reflect the mental highway that you and I travel. See if you can relate to his question found in Matthew eighteen…

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. v.21 (NIV)

Is Peter placing a limit on how often he should forgive someone?  Of course he is, and you and I could easily have asked the same question? Because we think, “how much should I have to take?” You would be interested to know that Peter’s focus on forgiving up to seven times is more than the rabbis taught. Their teaching was, “you must forgive three times, but the fourth time you must not forgive.” Both Peter and the rabbis were wrong, and I believe that Jesus’ answer to Peter conveyed continual forgiveness…no limits. And therein is the emotional burden that confronts us all. Do we travel through life believing Jesus and continually releasing others, or do we hold on to all the litter of broken promises, harsh words and painful memories?  Our answer is easy, (release and forgive those who hurt you) our choice is more difficult.

Emotionally, we all have our reasons of why we won’t forgive. And we can all think of extreme situations that would make forgiving very difficult. But God has chosen that forgiveness is the best way, the right way and the only way! Forgiving doesn’t mean that we ignore reality, or will want to be close friends with someone who has wounded us. Gary Inrig, in his book The Parables states it well – The reason for forgiveness is found in the forgiver, not the forgiven. It is an act of grace. Doesn’t it make sense that if the will of God is forgiveness, He will enable us to do it, and bless our commitment to His plan? Quite frankly, the person you forgive may not deserve it.  But the choice should still be to forgive.

One of my favorite sayings from author John Maxwell is, forgive everyone, every time for everything. Not three times, not seven times, but every time! Jesus would concur. On the mental highway that you are traveling, is there some litter scattered along the way due to painful, wounded relationships? Do you believe Jesus, or have you created limits?  Forgive and travel in freedom!


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