No Limit Forgiveness
by: Al Robertson
“Pastor Al, I’m tired of forgiving him. He just keeps on making the same boneheaded mistakes time and time again.”
Boy, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one, I’d be a rich man.
We’re all guilty of growing weary of forgiving that one person for their repeated violations. But what does our unwillingness to forgive repeat offenders say about our understanding of the gospel? Just in case we have forgotten the central message of the gospel, let me give you the Cliff Notes version.
You and I both were (and continue to be) repeat offenders before the holy and righteous God who created the cosmos. No matter how many times I resolved to stop sinning, I failed. I still do. Think about that – a being so mighty, majestic, holy, and powerful that we can never really understand just how great he is had every right to consign me to destruction. In fact, that is where I was headed before he stepped up and personally paid the debt I owed him.
The good news is that his sacrifice (the death of Jesus for my sins) is the gift that keeps on giving. It wasn’t like he said, “Okay, now I’ve erased all of your past violations, but you’re on your own now.” No! In fact, he is so gracious that he keeps on forgiving.
So I ask you, which is worse – for one sinner to sin against another (you against me) or for one sinner to break the law of this amazing God that spoke all of creation into existence? Who was violated more? Me by you doing me wrong, or God who was done wrong by me?
The answer is obvious. So repeated forgiveness has a framework from which we can not only justify forgiving others repeatedly, but this framework demands that we do so.
We discussed this in the chapter Living a Life of Forgiveness in our latest book, Desperate Forgiveness. This is one of the thirteen disciplines for being a forgiving person. We referred to the passage in Matthew 18 where Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive up to seven times those who had sinned against him. I’m sure that Peter was feeling smug for being so magnanimous. Seven times? Wow! What a gracious act of kindness.
But Jesus took it to a whole new level. No! You should forgive seven times seventy. He moved Peter from simple addition to multiplication in one sentence. He moved him from the generous to the ridiculous. Who would forgive someone 490 times?
The answer is that this kind of forgiveness is birthed out of the nature of God. It is God who is ridiculously forgiving. That’s how he is toward us.
So when we are wrestling with the question of how far we should go in not holding other’s sins against them, all we have to do is look to the forgiving nature of God to answer our own question. And the bottom line is that there is no limit.
We may never again enter into close fellowship with people who have wounded us. We have no control over how they respond to our offer of mercy. But what we can do is to make sure that we have the heart of God toward those who’ve hurt us – to have the same heart toward them that God has toward us.
We will never find healing from the pain of relationships any other way.