Tonight I went to a bible study for the first time in a very long time.
I had been invited on four different occasions, three times by the same person and once by someone different. At first, I was apprehensive to go. Through therapy I have learned that I have some deep rooted self-esteem issues, and those issues have recently impeded my ability to step out and try new things. Through therapy and the Lord, however, I am working on those issues. Then, there is the fact that the Bible study is in Hampton. I love that town with all my heart, and I will never be able to repay the sweet residents there for their love, kindness and prayers that they offered me when (and since) Jorre passed, but it is hard to go there. It is hard to pass the house we shared together while married. It is hard to drive down the highway, knowing that he did the same the morning before he died. It is hard to see the school where he taught and coached. It is hard, but I decided to face all of those things, and I am thankful that I did.
During the Bible study, we discussed several chapters in Luke, and people shared what God had spoken to them through those chapters. People also shared various testimonies about how God had moved in their life through the week. In the midst of the sharing, God used two specific testimonies to touch my heart. One young lady talked about how difficult it is for her encounter certain people who affected her husband’s life in negative ways in the past, and she was very open about how she wants to pray for those people rather than be angry with them. Another young man opened up about how hard it is to forgive the people that killed his father and how he wants to find the strength through the Lord to offer such forgiveness. I listened intently, and God began to speak.
I have been hurt. I have been broken in a way that I have not shared with the world, and if I ever decide to share how I have been hurt, I am not sure when that will be. But the pain that I have experienced stemming from someone in my life is overwhelming. It is consuming.
I battle with it on a daily basis. I learned how to bury the disappointment, the pain, the betrayal, the internal suffering. I even forgave this person for what they did, although it is seemingly unforgivable.
This is something that I discuss in therapy often, and it helps to talk with someone about it. But since I have been discussing it, those same emotions have resurfaced: rage, embarrassment, confusion, and yes- unforgiveness.
As I listened to this brother and sister in Christ discuss their struggle with unforgiveness, I reflected upon my own situation. As I drove home, I talked with God. I said, “Lord, how many times do you expect me to forgive this person? How many times do you expect me to forgive this situation?” And He clearly responded:
His words reference a parable that Peter sparks in Matthew 20, when Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how many times do I forgive my brother? Seven times?” and Jesus responds, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
He continues by telling the disciples a parable about a master and a servant. The servant owes the master ten-thousand talents, which, according to the NIV translation, is several million dollars. He master tells the servant that if he does not pay his debt, he and his family will be punished. The servant begs for mercy, and because he pleads, the master pities him and forgives his debt.
The Bible then tells us that a fellow servant of the servant that had been forgiven owes him a hundred denarii, which is around a few dollars. His debt certainly did not compare to the debt that the master forgave. However, when the fellow servant begs for mercy, the servant whose debt had been forgiven does not pity him, and he throws him in jail. The master hears of the servant’s reaction, and he questions him as to why he did not have the same mercy on his fellow servant as he did on him.
If Jesus, our Master, the One who is full of mercy and love, the One who was beaten, slandered, ridiculed and marred beyond recognition because of my sin, because of my debt, because of my wrongdoing, can forgive me, who am I to refuse forgiveness toward someone else? Who am I to shun mercy and choose anger? Jesus did not have to finish the work on the cross. He could have easily called down legions of angels to usher Him to heaven. But He chose not to. He chose to die, to die an unthinkable, unforgivable death, not only for me, but for the very people that inflicted those atrocities upon Him.
He selflessly chose a death that I deserve, so that He could offer forgiveness for my unforgivable sins. And I think I am above forgiving someone seventy-seven times? I do not think so.
The power to forgive is not found within ourselves.
The power to forgive is found within Christ.
“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13