Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “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 18:21-22
Listen: Matthew 18
Forgiveness is a practice more than a feeling. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told Peter that offering forgiveness seven times falls well short of the mark. Peter thought seven times was incredibly generous. But by placing the requirement at 77 times, Jesus raised the bar dramatically higher than anyone would have reasonably expected. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “A life of grace will be characterized by the practice of forgiveness.”
Practicing forgiveness is important. It’s how we know if we’ve truly forgiven someone who’s hurt us. Lewis Smedes, in his book The Art of Forgiving, tells us we know we’ve truly forgiven someone when “We rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us, we surrender our right to get even, and we wish that person well.” This means we no longer label them only by their offense. We no longer want them to hurt. And we’re OK when something good happens to them. Sometimes, we may need to continually practice forgiveness for the same person and the same offense. Sometimes, seven times may be enough. But sometimes—it’s not.
IN YOUR CHAIR TIME TODAY
We all have people we need to forgive for offenses big and small. Who do you need to forgive? In your journal, write the name of the person you most need to forgive. It may be for a wrong committed yesterday or three decades ago. Next to their name, write the three practices bolded above from Smedes. Use these practices to guide your heart as you (again) forgive them for the wrong they committed against you. Finally, thank God for his forgiveness of you that makes your practice of forgiveness possible.
Download a printable PDF of the BTW week here.