There are some damaging teachings about certain topics that set our generation and future generations up to fail. One such topic is “forgiveness.” The teaching for many has been that if you “truly” forgive someone then you will NEVER have the need to forgive them again. Is this what the Bible teaches or something else that man has wrongly interpreted?
The topic has to be looked at in a Holistic way. When we do this, we see that it has a few different dimensions. The first dimension is the human dimension. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sings.” So here you go, it seems as if forgiveness may be a “one time” act. Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” It seems that once again it is a “one time” act or your sins won’t be forgiven by God. So what are we to think?
Both passages have to be coupled with Matthew 6:9-15 when Jesus gives us the “model” prayer. Jesus identified and gave to us the example of how we should pray…what elements should be incorporated in our prayer. Jesus says, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heave. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive othes their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Forgiveness is HUGE and Prayer is KEY!
Prayer is an act that it to be done constantly, throughout the day. It is a vital part of the moment by moment life of the Christian. As we pray throughout the day, forgiving others has to be a part. For some people it is true that they are 1 and done. They forgive someone 1 time and its over- they never think of “it” again. For others, it’s not a 1 and done and that is just fine…according to Jesus.
We read in Matthew 18:21, “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?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This doesn’t mean that you are to literally keep a “tally” sheet and when you get to 77 you stop forgiving. Jesus is saying that you have to continually forgive just as our Father continually forgives us.
When we are reminded of a past hurt and find ourselves going back to that destructive place of unforgiveness, we go to the Lord in prayer, even if it is for the same “offense” for which we already forgave them. Anything that is in our heart and doesn’t bring God glory is that thing which we have to confess or surrender to Him. There are times in which someone has hurt or wronged you and you find out about it, it causes pain and anger (which isn’t a sin) and you take it to the Lord and forgive that person. Then you find out something else new…what do you do? You take it to the Lord and forgive them. What if you are reminded about the same thing? What do you do? You take it to the Lord and forgive AGAIN! Does this mean something is wrong with you? Does this mean that you didn’t truly forgive the first time? Does this mean that you should doubt your salvation? Absolutely NOT! This means that you, as an adopted son or daughter of Jesus Christ, are in the process of sanctification and you are perfectly normal.
In this same human dimension, the “other” factor can be damaging. What is “other?” It’s “other” believers. It’s important for all believers to walk alongside others as they are at times forgiving the same person again and again. Some Christians can be short and unloving by responding in frustration. It can sound like, “Get over it.” “Move past this.” ” I thought you already said you forgave them.” This can completely shut the person down who is obviously struggling with forgiveness and a full-proof way to ensure that the person never shares openly again. So what should the Biblical response be? To stop and pray with your brother or sister in Christ. Something should be said like, “I know that this is something that is bubbling up again in your heart and your frustration is real. I’m sorry that you are going through this and I want to stop now and prayer with you.” Prayer and Forgiveness go hand-in-hand.
So what’s the other dimension? God. I’ll have to get to that later.