The author C.S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Forgiveness does not come easily for most of us. When we forgive someone for hurting us, we are deciding to cancel their indebtedness and not harbor any resentment or grudges.
In Luke 17:3-4 Christ admonishes us : “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
We are told in this passage that “If he repents,” it is especially essential to “forgive him.” (Other scriptures point out we must also forgive even when the guilty party does not repent.)
This scripture also indicates it may be appropriate to approach a person who has hurt us and tactfully let him them know how they have offended you. One of the benefits of this is that the person in question is more likely to become aware of the impact of their actions and apologise.
Secondly the reference to forgiving someone “seven times” is not meant as an exact number. It’s an expression that meant “many times” as Matthew 18:21-22 shows when Jesus explains: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Even the apostles were stunned at Christ’s statement when they realised their duty was to forgive their brother again and again! They knew they needed divine help to be able to do that, and their reaction is recorded in Luke 17:5: “And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’”
There are times when we really do not want to forgive and may feel like we will just be allowing people to take advantage of us. We want to strike back and fight to be justified. But we are told: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15).”
Because the subject of forgiveness is so important Christ gave a very sobering example to help us grasp this concept. It’s a parable of a king and his servant. The servant owed the king ten thousand talents. “But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made” (Matthew 18:25).
The servant begged for forgiveness, and the master forgave him his debt. Soon after, the same servant came across a fellow servant who owed him a debt and demanded it be repaid. This fellow servant could not pay and also begged for forgiveness, but the servant who had just been forgiven, refused and had the man jailed. When the king heard of this, he was very angry that his servant had not also been forgiving and sent the man away to be punished until he could repay (Matthew 18:32-34).
Obviously, the first servant with the huge debt pictures you and me in our relationship with God. The second servant pictures our relationship with those who have inflicted injuries on us that are small by comparison.
Forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving someone, we are trusting that God is better at justice than we ever could be. When forgiving, we give up our desire to get even, leaving all of the issues of fairness for God to work out.
Bible Study Guide