Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 9, 2015

every time

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! We’ve all 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. 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 once said, “Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have something to forgive.”

In studying a parable on forgiveness for the past week, I was struck by the words Peter asked which prompted 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 18…

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)

Was Peter placing a limit on how often he should forgive someone?  Of course he was.  And you and I could easily have asked the same question. We can all confess to thinking, “How much should I have to take?” when someone has wronged us repeatedly.  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 there 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?  The answer may be easy, (release and forgive those who hurt you), but our choice is more difficult.

Emotionally, we all have reasons as to why we won’t forgive. We can all think of extreme situations which make forgiving very difficult. But God has chosen forgiveness as the best way, the right way and the only way! Forgiving doesn’t mean we ignore reality or 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.” Forgiveness should not be three times or seven times, but every time! I believe Jesus would concur. On the mental highway you are traveling, is there litter scattered along the way due to painful, wounded relationships? Do you believe Jesus, or have you created limits?  Forgive without ceasing and travel in freedom!

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