Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
I have recently had several conversations about forgiveness. I’m also in the midst of an opportunity to exercise forgiveness, so it’s a topic that has been on my mind! In two different conversations with two different people the subject arose regarding the motivation of the offender. Does the offender’s motivation matter when exercising forgiveness? In one scenario, someone who is hurt considers the motivation of the person that caused the pain. There are two options — assign a positive motive or assume the person wanted to inflict pain. If we choose the former, assuming the best about someone, then perhaps it is easier for us to forgive. But I wonder if there isn’t a better option? What if we don’t regard the motive at all?
Unless the person tells me why he did or said the thing that offended me, then I don’t know the motive. To assume anything is just that, an assumption, and it may or may not be truth. The Bible speaks volumes to the importance of Truth, so I don’t want to base anything, not even forgiveness on a possible lie! Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on the things that are true — not even a story made up to make someone look good falls under that!
But even more than that, God wants His people to to reflect His character. Paul tells us that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:8) He didn’t wait to hear our motives to offer forgiveness. He certainly didn’t assume that we had good motives, because we didn’t! We were steeped in our sin and loving it! So wouldn’t it be better to walk out forgiveness without making assumptions? This is what I hope to do, both in my current situation and in future opportunities to walk out forgiveness.
- Admit that I have been hurt. (Believe it or not, this is really difficult for me! I much prefer to hide it and go on in my own strength!)
- Sift thoughts and feelings from the offense through the Word.
- Ask the Lord for His love and grace poured out in me to exercise forgiveness.
- Love the offender by laying down my desires for vengeance and seeking his wholeness through prayer, confession, service, or whatever means God shows me.
This is a huge topic that could be talked about for days on end! Please share your thoughts and experiences regarding forgiveness — I’d love to hear them!