I have a new book coming out soon called What a Great Word! I’m excited about the book because it takes rather common words we find in Scripture and offers us a new perspective, or another way we might look at those words. After the recent experience that Bruce and I had with the incredibly careless and deceitful moving company that packed us up haphazardly, broke many of our things, lost some of our favorite items and yet took no ownership of their own craziness, I had to pull a word out of my own book because I was so appalled by this experience. From the company president, to the dispatchers, to the moving guys, we have seldom witnessed such horrid behavior. The word I needed then is “forgiveness.”
This past few days, I’ve been reviewing my book to make some minor changes for the publisher and when I got to the word “forgiveness,” I found that I had written this:
“Lord, when my fellow believer sins against me, how many times must I forgive him? Should I forgive him as many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, you must forgive him more than seven times. You must forgive him even if he wrongs you seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21–22, NCV
Wait a minute! Does this mean if someone does something that feels like a slight, like an intentional act that hurts you, you need to forgive them, not just once, but 490 times? Exactly!
You probably don’t have a chart that tells you how many times you’ve forgiven someone who hurt you. In fact, you may feel that what happened was so wrong that you stopped counting at number one. You stopped counting and you stopped forgiving in the same moment. Certainly, human beings are accountable for many horrendous acts, sometimes repeating them numerous times. Someone in your life may have hurt you more times than you can count.
What does it mean then to move past the hurt, to move past the event that caused you sorrow and get to the place where your heart is willing to forgive? Perhaps the best example is to look at your relationship with God. Would you say that you have offended God by your actions at least once? Twice? Maybe even 490 times? The fact is that God’s love is so enormous that He does not count your offences. He does not keep a chart of the wrongs you have done because once you have asked Him to forgive you, He forgives, once and for all. He does not hold a grudge and He remembers your sin no more. Imagine that. He doesn’t ever think about what you did to slight Him ever again.
When you let go of your past hurts, the offences that have weighed you down for years, you don’t have to replay them in your mind any more. You can give yourself permission to move beyond what was and discover more of what God has for you. The offence will not go away, the offender will not be absolved, but you will be free to start again. Perhaps it’s time to simply forgive others as God has forgiven you, not for the other person, but for yourself.
I read this piece several times and as I did so, I thought about each person from this moving company. Each one lied. Each one denied any sense of responsibility for the incredible amount of damage they had done to our household goods. Sure, the human side of me is angry. I believe that they should admit their sins. But that is as far as I can take it. I leave them in God’s hands because it’s time to move on to forgiveness. I forgive them, not for their sake, but for my own, so that I can love my new home and start again in God’s grace. After all, I know how many times He has forgiven me.
I look forward to sharing more about life in Savannah with all of you in the days ahead. Blessings to you today.