Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times." (New International Version 1984)- Matthew 18:21-22
I shifted uneasily when I realized that God had "interrupted" my nice relaxing bath by asking me a question. He asked me why I hadn't forgiven someone. Was this really the time and place for such a discussion? I mean really, couldn't this wait until I was less... vulnerable? Wait a minute. Whew! This was an easy question. I would answer it and be done with it I cleared my throat and wrapped myself up in my dignity (which was a very poor covering) and grandly proclaimed:
I have and as soon as they ask for my forgiveness, I will tell them that.
There! I smugly went back to concentrating on my bath. A little more hot water would be nice. There that was better. I lay back and closed my eyes.
God wasn't finished with me yet.
So, when did I forgive you?
I opened up one eye. What was that God had said? I sighed. That was an easy question too. Why was God asking me these questions anyways? I mean, I was rather busy at the moment! Besides, He was God. He already knew the answer as well as I did. I asked Him to forgive me and He did. When the person who had victimized myself and others asked to be forgiven I would do the same.
There was silence but instead of feeling relieved that I could finally resume my bath, I felt strangely uneasy about my response.
Are you sure that's when you were forgiven?
I opened my mouth to say yes but nothing came out of it. My thoughts were racing as my thoughts moved backwards from the altar at the little church to the Cross. It was there that the Lamb of God had been sacrificed on my behalf and forgiveness was granted before I was even born.
Knowing my thoughts (of course), I "heard" God say, "You must forgive others like I have forgiven you."
I hung my head. I understood that forgiveness is not something we grandly bestow when the person who wronged us comes crawling to us begging for mercy on their hands and knees. That is not forgiveness. I realized that true forgiveness occurs when the wronged party recognizes that all sin is against God and God alone. They refuse to be the judge, jury and executioner. Instead, they realize it to God and when they do so they will discover that they can forgive.
"I can't forgive." I whispered. "It's too hard."
God knew already knew that but He reminded me that Christ who dwells within me could. Would I let Him help me?
I nodded my head for suddenly "unforgiveness" was making me feel very sick to my stomach. I noticed that by now, I was sitting in the water with my fists clenched. Slowly and painfully I began to unclench my fingers as I cried out to Jesus to please help me.
"Please help me to..."
My hands suddenly opened and as I said the word "forgive", I began to weep uncontrollably as love and forgiveness flooded over me.
I had forgiven yes, but at the same time I realized that I was also set free.
More than 25 years have passed. Never once has the person asked me to forgive them but that's all right because you see, they did something far more important. They asked GOD to forgive them and I have watched Him do an amazing work in them. Forgiveness... it is not for their good that we forgive... it is for ours. Forgiveness is not optional. It is for our own good.
Your blog serves as a "poignant" reminder of how much "more" I must seek God's help with this very issue, because I am dealing with it this morning. How impossible it seems to forgive these people -- "my mind" tells me -- and surely it is within, or from, myself; [b]but[/b] I am leaning to my own understanding, aren't I? Because God's word says [b]"For with God nothing shall be impossible."[/b] Thank you for sharing this, K ! I know it certainly was for me.