Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21 NIV
When Matthew was written the rabbis taught that you should forgive someone up to three times. When Peter asks this question of Jesus, he thinks it is going above and beyond to suggest forgiving seven times. But Jesus’ response shows there is no limit to forgiveness (seventy-seven times is interpreted essentially as countless or infinity). So it’s clear, there is no limit on the number of times we should forgive others. But what does this look like?
I would suggest there is a singular action and then repetitive motion. The singular action is the decision whether to forgive someone at all. If you don’t make this decision you can’t progress to the repetitive motion of forgiveness (with the Lord) whenever the offense comes up in daily life or in your mind.
We live in a world of debt – not just financial debt, but perceived debt where we feel other people owe us something. The decision to forgive and the repetitive motion of forgiving every time it re-surfaces is how Jesus taught us to forgive that debt.
What did this look like for me? It looked like an unhealthy marriage where my wife had an affair. To be clear, I created the conditions of the marriage where her emotional needs were not being met, but I know I am also not responsible for her actions. When I confronted her about the affair she chose to continue with it, and we proceeded to divorce. I had a lot of anger (and shame) about the affair and what I thought she owed me in the marriage – fidelity, dignity, respect, etc.
One day after reading this scripture I made a choice. I chose to forgive these debts and what I thought she owed me in marriage. I built a wood cross, wrote down everything I thought she owed me, and literally buried it at the cross. Then I walked through the repetitive motion of taking it to the Lord every time it re-surfaced. I had to remind myself daily, those debts are canceled and buried. Those debts were forgiven. Those chains were broken. It took the singular action and the repetitive motion.
Daily Battle Order:
What do you need to bury at the cross with a one-time decision so you can move to the repetitive action of forgiveness?
I once heard, “Don’t nurse it or rehearse it, disperse it.” What debts and wounds are you nursing, or what past or future arguments are you rehearsing? Release it. Start with 77 times and move to infinity.