Growing up people need grown up grace? Why? Well, if you’re like me, relationships can be a challenge!—so much so, that even the closest relationships often require forgiveness to take place, and forgiveness requires GRACE!
In Matt. 18, Jesus has been talking about relationships; He speaks of little children, and the importance of how we treat them; He also talks about seeking out those who have strayed away from the flock [that is, the Church, or the Body of Christ!] He then speaks of the importance of restoring those who have fallen into sin; then, Peter comes to Jesus, and apparently tells Jesus something like this; "Jesus, someone hurt me. They’ve done me wrong, and not just once! Lord, I know I'm Your disciple, and I know that I'm supposed to forgive the person who hurt me, but it feels unfair! Why should I be the one who is always forgiving people? How often do I have to forgive him? Should I forgive him up to seven times?" Jewish law, and rabbinic teaching during Jesus' time was to forgi ve someone up to three times, and then after that you could seek revenge.
Peter believed that he was being charitable by asking if he should forgive seven times, because he doubled the rabbinic teaching from three times to six times, and then added one more time, to get the perfect biblical number of seven! Surely, Jesus would be impressed, and would commend him for being such a forgiving person!
Forgiveness can look and feel pretty risky! In fact, it sounds like one of those spiritual things to do, that Jesus talks about, but it doesn't work too well for those of us who live in the real world! How many of you would agree with Peter, that if someone has deeply, deeply wounded you seven times, it would be extremely generous on your part to forgive that person seven times?
When it comes to life and relationships, there are two paths to go down: the law of revenge which leads to death; or, we can choose Jesus' call to forgiveness, that leads to life. Why is forgiveness the way to life? In fact, what is forgiveness, really? Perhaps we should start with considering what forgiveness is not; forgiveness is not excusing! We excuse small children for misbehaving in the Grocery Store; we forgive expectant fathers for breaking the speed limit as they try to get their pregnant wives to the Delivery Room; we excuse 10-year-old boys for making certain bodily noises! When an action is excusable, it doesn't require forgiveness!
Secondly, forgiveness is not forgetting! Sometimes I forget where I leave my keys; or forget where I placed a book; or remember where I read a certain article; that's a lapse of my memory. That's very different from forgetting a serious hurt that someone has caused me; I will still remember the hurt, even if I've forgiven someone.
Thirdly, Forgiveness is not necessarily reconciling! Reconciliation is always the best-case scenario that happens after people hurt each other; they sit down, talk it out, take responsibility, and apologize. Reconciliation takes place in good marriages, good families, and good churches when all is forgiven, and relationships are restored; but there are times you can have forgiveness without a restored relationship, especially if the experience was life-shattering, and trust is removed!
Having seen that forgiveness is not excusing, forgetting, or necessarily reconciling, let's look at what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is a decision, an act of the will by the grace of God! You may find yourself saying, "This person really hurt me. I want to forgive this person. Lord, please give me the grace to do that!" Or, "He ripped me off! My heart is broken! Lord, heal my heart, and give me the grace to let him off the hook." Secondly, to forgive, you begin to let go of the desire for vengeance! Forgiveness means that we are giving up that desire, because God is judge, and we're not! It means that we don't try to get even, because that never works!
Lastly, the third step of forgiveness, and this one takes time--sometimes a lot of it!--you begin to wish the person who hurt you, well! You begin to see them as a fallen creature who needs grace, just like you do; you see them as someone who God loves, just as God loves you.
You hope that their life, and their relationship with God is good, just as you hope for yourself!
…and that’s why we need to grow in grace!