A couple weeks back, I shared a quote I’d ran across on “rearranging prejudices”. I was pondering how frequently we Christians struggle with this, allowing what we want to believe to shape how we understand Scripture.
As an example, I used Matthew 18 conflict resolution. Addressing sins against us in a Biblical manner. With the right attitude and the right heart.
I came across another article along these lines last week while browsing resources from the Send Network. Dr. Russell Moore had an article there on forgiveness, specifically, “Why It’s Hard to Forgive”.
It boils down to seventy times seven:
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.” (Matthew 18:21, 22 HCSB)
(Note: other versions of the Bible say seventy-seven times. Either way, it’s a lot.)
As Dr. Moore writes, seventy times seven, in this context, is “the most difficult math problem in the universe”.
It’s hard to forgive. Especially when sins against us are repeated over and over. When we feel abused or taken advantage of.
And especially when forgiveness seems to imply justice undone. Because if there’s one thing we humans seem to struggle with in life, it’s when things aren’t fair.
Dr. Moore’s article speaks to this. Quite bluntly, actually.
How often do we withhold forgiveness because our hearts are hard. Or because we’ve been sinned against repeatedly? Or because the sinner hasn’t repented to us? Or [insert whatever reason you have for not offering forgiveness]?
As Dr. Moore points out, seventy times seven is hard. We know this.
But the cost to us personally is very high when we hold back forgiveness.
Bitterness. Hard heartedness. Revenge-seeking.
All kinds of sin arises in our hearts because we fail to forgive.
And further… there’s this:
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35 ESV)
The parable in Matthew pointedly illustrates just how much we have been forgiven by our King.
His grace towards us is anything but fair. Anything but deserved.
How can we hold back forgiveness in light of this?
We simply have no right.
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