Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
— Colossians 3:13
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
— Psalm 103:11–12
On the drive to school one rainy, hurried morning, I snapped at my daughter over something minuscule. As soon as the words exited my mouth, I regretted them. Evidenced by the tears in her eyes and the deafening silence, I knew I had royally messed up. So when I pulled into the parking lot, I offered an olive branch prayer over the two of us. With a slight smirk and squeeze of my hand, she left for school.
All day, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had failed as her mother. Three o’clock couldn’t come soon enough; I wanted to apologize again and make it right. In an effort to redeem myself, I bought a new journal for the two of us to share. I wrote our names and the year at the top of the first blank page, followed by the simple words, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
At the end of her school day, I watched her tentatively walk to the car, unsure of what kind of atmosphere she would be entering. I handed her the journal and silently waited for her response. As she read those five simple words, more tears filled her eyes—this time, however, they were glistening with forgiveness and love.
While this specific story ended happily and quickly, I know many of our stories do not. Let’s face it, forgiving is one of the most difficult acts of love we can do.
It is especially hard when the person who hurt us has done so repeatedly, and it’s even harder when they aren’t repentant. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that forgiveness is often a process. Just when we think we’ve made progress, something triggers the old wound and we have to forgive all over again.
As love offerings, we are called to forgive without limit. When asked how many times we should forgive, Jesus responded, “Seventy times seven times.” In essence, He was saying we shouldn’t keep track of how many times we forgive someone.
Jesus not only taught on this subject, but He also demonstrated it. He forgave both those who repented and those He hoped eventually would. From the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3–11), to Peter denying he knew Jesus (John 18:15–18, 25–27; John 21: 15–19), to the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43), to even the people who crucified Him (Luke 23:34) there was no limit to His forgiveness, no matter the severity of pain and rejection He endured.
Friend, this was true then and it is still true now. The Bible tells us He has cast our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:11–12) and that He remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12). Since Jesus loved us enough to forgive us, may we follow His example by lovingly offering forgiveness to those who hurt us. The key is to remember how much He has forgiven us. He died on the cross for our past, present, and future sins. If He could do that much for us, forgiving is the least we can do.
Reflect on how completely God has forgiven you. Once you realize the magnitude of the forgiveness He has offered you, consider who in your life you need to forgive. Offer your forgiveness to them verbally, if appropriate, as well as inwardly in your heart. Of course, we mess up too. As hard as it is to admit, sometimes we cause the pain and are the ones who need to ask for forgiveness. And, sometimes, we even have to forgive ourselves. Consider whether you need to extend forgiveness to yourself or ask someone else for their forgiveness.
Lord, thank You for forgiving me of all of my sins. Please help me accept Your forgiveness, forgive myself, and forgive those in my life who have hurt me. Produce in me a generous attitude of forgiveness toward others so we can share Your freedom. Show me if there’s someone in my life that I have hurt and give me the strength to humbly ask them for their forgiveness. Amen.
Talk It Over:
Discuss how much God has forgiven you personally and how offering forgiveness to others or even yourself has freed you. If there is something you have done to hurt someone else, take this time to ask for forgiveness.
Thank you to Rachael Adams for providing this reading plan.