We’ve all had it happen, someone you know, probably close to you made a promise and didn’t fulfill it or someone lied or hid something important from you or they simply weren’t there for you when you needed them most. All of us have had someone disappoint us in some fashion or another. Makes you sad, angry, hurt, empty all these feelings just seem to course through and wreak havoc on our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. Sometimes because of who or what, the disappointment can move us to the very core of our being, like a dagger through or very soul.
What do we do? How do we respond to such an offense? In some cases, it is best to sever the relationship and just let it go. In other cases, that response is not possible because of who it is or the type of relationship. If it’s a boss or co-worker, severing the relationship is not always possible. If it’s a family member, the pain can be multiplied so much more and severing that relationship is something you would never want to do because of the love that you have for them even though they haven’t demonstrated that love in a reciprocal manner.
When someone has let you down it can affect the way you treat other people. We respond angrily, lashing out at the offender, we respond angrily by bottling it up inside and venting when no one can see. We can respond hurtfully by making our hurt and pain known to all. Some people resort to social media to make their pain know to the world to garner sympathy and understanding. Others, bottle up the pain, become depressed and withdraw from others. There are a few however, that try to make sense of it and move on or make sense of it, look at it from the other point of view and come together to solve the issues.
What should a believer’s response be to the inevitable circumstance of when someone lets you down or in some way offends you? It’s essentially the same question Peter asked Jesus;
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
is being very generous in his own mind here by offering forgiveness seven times. The Jewish Rabbis taught that they were to forgive up to three times citing several passages from the book of Amos. Where God says for three transgressions he will forgive and for four He will not… Are we to be that way, are we to forgive three times then lower the boom on the fourth? Or, are we to be generous like Peter. Jesus gives the answer in several passages.
Matthew 18: 22
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
490? Seventy times seven, right? No, Jesus is saying an innumerable amount of times. Wow! That’s tough to swallow, so what is said here is we are to forgive our “brother.” This term denotes someone who is close to you, not some stranger. It could be a physical brother from the same womb or a brother from another mother from the same community. In the case Peter is referring to a member of the same religious community. What greater pain could be caused than from someone close to you. This thought on the number of forgiveness is repeated in Luke:
And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
Jesus is not giving a definite, finite number, but an unlimited forgiveness. Suppose Christ were to do the same to us. Did Jesus ever say, He would only forgive us 490 times after we are saved? Or only seven times in one day? There be a whole lot of us in big trouble were that the case.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
There is no limit to forgiveness here. Through Christ, God’s love and forgiveness is limitless. Jesus paid the price of our forgiveness because God’s justice is also perfect and demands a price for sin. That price has already been paid.
Now a little deeper, did Jesus say to allow people to walk all over us, to continually let us down? No, in the same chapter of Matthew, we are to seek a resolution and then to forgive.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
Whether you have regained your brother or not, verses 21 and 22 come after 15 and compel us to forgive regardless. There is no condition here to the forgiveness aspect. You may lose a brother, but if you follow Christ’s guidance, you have done everything possible to regain that brother. Be careful to guard yourself by responding in the flesh and being ruled by emotion. Turn yourself over to prayer and petition, present your request to God and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Only then can true reconciliation and restoration take place.