Posted by: mikenicholsblog | January 12, 2017

a forgiver’s heart

Admit it; there are some people you have a difficult time being around. There are other individuals who cause a sense of irritation inside you at the mention of their name. And even more emotionally draining are the people who have knowingly hurt you, seemingly without an ounce of remorse.  What is really frustrating is to see these “irritators” at family functions, daily at work, and even in social settings. You may even have had thoughts like ones that have passed through my mind … “I hope you get what you deserve.” Christ-followers all know the right response to these emotionally draining people … forgive them! For most, living with a genuine heart of forgiveness is a battle. But it is a battle worth fighting!!

Peter was often quick to respond.  His words were sometimes off-track, but most of us can relate with his impetuous tongue. In Matthew 18:21-22, we find a dialogue between Peter and Jesus that was striking.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (ESV)

Peter may have thought he was showing a measure of faith by saying seven times. After all, the rabbis taught that a Jew should forgive an offense three times.  We can all relate with the frustration of continually forgiving the “irritator” who repeatedly offends us.

Obviously, Peter was wrong in his suggestion of forgiving seven times. Some versions of the Bible use “seventy times seven” while others, including the version listed above, use seventy-seven times. There could be scholarly debates on the correct “number,” but we should never get fixated on the number over the posture and heart of Jesus’ correction.  He is boldly declaring that we are to be forgivers. In Dr. Constable’s Notes on Matthew he states, “That disciples who are humble should not limit the number of times they forgive one another, or limit the frequency with which they forgive each other.”

We can easily relate with Peter and the limit he suggests relative to forgiveness. We all have “irritators” who we sometimes wish would get what they deserve. But for anyone desiring to live like Christ and make a difference in the world, forgiveness shouldn’t carry limits. Forgive and trust God with the results.  As I was thinking about writing on Peter and forgiveness, a story came to mind which provided a pause to consider how true believers in Christ really can forgive … when others would not!

My wife and I met a man a few years ago in business. We were drawn to him immediately, even before he told us the story of how his daughter had stepped up to take a co-worker home and lost her life. She was on an unfamiliar road and a drunk driver crossed the center line and her life was taken. I can’t imagine the pain our friend and his wife endured. But when he felt prepared, this godly man took a trip from Ohio to Indiana to tell the person who was responsible for his daughter’s death, that he had forgiven him.  His act of forgiveness reminds me that forgiveness can be given, even when the pain is beyond what we can imagine. Our friend had a heart like Christ. A forgiver’s heart!

We may have need to forgive someone once, or maybe seven times or seventy-seven times. The point is not the number, but the willingness and capacity to forgive. If you and I want a life that models Christ, complete and repeated forgiveness will be a part of it. I am convinced that someone reading this article today is battling forgiveness.  Consider what Christ would do, what our friend did, and, in Christ, what you can do!

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