“Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’ ”
—Matthew 18:21–22 (NLT)
Let’s face it. Forgiveness is not easy. But it is not optional for the Christian! When someone hurts you, it can be hard to forgive. Maybe you do once, but suddenly they do something else! Now you have to forgive again, and it hurts.
Jesus understood this. He knew the importance of forgiveness and talked to His disciples about it. Peter asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matt. 18:21 NLT). He thought that was enough. But the response in verse 22 was: “‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’ ”
Jesus continued with a parable (an earthly example with a heavenly meaning) of a king who loaned millions of dollars to his servant. When the servant couldn’t repay, he, his family, and everything he owned was sold to pay the debt. He begged his master for patience, promising to pay it all. The king had pity, released him, and forgave the debt.
Immediately, the forgiven man went to a fellow servant who owed him far less and demanded payment. Like him, the other servant pleaded for patience, but he wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested. When the news reached the king, he called the servant in and said, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” (Matt. 18:33 NLT). The king sent the man to prison until he paid the entire debt.
Jesus was blunt when He said, “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart” (Matt. 18:35 NLT). Forgiveness is important!
God has forgiven us. So why would we not extend that forgiveness to others?
Do We Really Forgive?
Christians can be critical. They say, “If that were me, I would never sin like that!” But they sin by their judgment! The Word tells us not to judge others lest we are judged. (See Matt. 7:1–2, Luke 6:37, and James 5:9.)
My philosophy has always been this: How would I want to be treated if I were in that person’s shoes? Don’t criticize others. Don’t be critical about their lives or what’s happening in their children’s lives.
If we get huffy, puffed-up, and self-righteous toward another person, we need to forgive. We can say the words, “I forgive you,” but do we really forgive?
Forgive defined by Webster’s 1913 dictionary means “to give up resentment . . . to cease to feel resentment against (an offender).” Let that soak in.
Imagine that you have forgiven somebody. When you see them on the street or in a store, what do you do? Avoid them? Pretend as though you didn’t see them? Are you glad when you don’t see them because you would have to say hello? If that happens, you haven’t forgiven. You are still resentful because of what they did.
Forgiveness is not an action of the emotions or the mind. It is an action of the will.Lynette Hagin
Forgiveness Is a Choice
Do you hold grudges or keep records of the wrongs people have done? Do you punish others with guilt trips? If you continually talk about everything people have done to you, you are choosing the negative instead of the positive. You are not choosing to forgive.
Forgiveness is not an action of the emotions or the mind. It is an action of the will. If you wait until you feel like it, you’ll never do it! Do you ever feel like forgiving when someone has hurt you? Probably not!
Being hurt is an emotional event, and emotions don’t heal by themselves. Your will is involved. It is your will that says, “Even though I’m hurt, I choose to forgive.”
You might ask: What if someone abused me? What if my spouse cheated? If someone hurt me to the extreme, do I still have to forgive them? Yes, you must forgive them. Does that mean you let a person keep on hurting you? Absolutely not.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you allow someone to keep taking advantage of you. But you also don’t hold grudges or “bad mouth” those who hurt you. You don’t seek revenge or keep bringing up those mistakes.
Sometimes you don’t want to forgive because you want the other person to hurt too. But unforgiveness doesn’t hurt them—it only hurts you. If you allow yourself to feel like a victim or dream of ways to retaliate, it takes a toll on your mind and body. Bitterness builds up and affects your physical and mental health. It even harms relationships. Forgiving is good for your body
My Forgiveness Journey
I used to have a hard time forgiving. When I love, I love deep. So when someone hurt me, it cut deep! I knew I needed to forgive, and I wanted to, but I didn’t know how.
At first, I asked my husband because he didn’t seem to have any trouble forgiving anyone. He said, “You just forgive.” That wasn’t a good answer for me! So I went to his father, Kenneth E. Hagin. Surely, he could tell me how to forgive! But he responded, “You just do.” That didn’t work for me either. I needed to know the steps to take.
I finally asked God. (If we just go to the Father, He will show us exactly what we need!) He took me to a Bible verse and showed me the key to forgiveness.
44 But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
The Lord told me, “I want that to be the first scripture you read every day. Pray for anyone you have trouble forgiving. When you really forgive, you’ll pray and not feel resentment against them.”
It’s like an infection you get out with an antibiotic. You don’t quit taking medicine when you feel better. You keep taking it until the prescription runs out. The Word is our antibiotic.
I practiced Matthew 5:44 day in and day out. Some hurts were so deep that it took me ten years to be able to pray and not remember what was done.
Today it’s easy to forgive. I learned the secret: praying for my enemies. I now understand what my husband and father-in-law were saying. You choose to forgive and just do it—freely and quickly.
Forgiveness begins in the heart. Start practicing it. Pray for the person who hurt you. Open your heart and say, “I forgive you.” Forgiveness will set you free!
Your success depends on walking in love and forgiveness! Visit bit.do/4give for more encouragement.
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