Probably one of the most nerve-wracking experiences my first year in junior high was awaiting the return of the love note response I sent up to Jennifer, a high school freshman. You know, the one that says, “Do you like me?” Check Yes or No. Even at the early age of twelve I had big vision! It didn’t matter that we were in separate sections of my school or the fact that, while we were only two years apart, it is two decades in teen years! It didn’t even matter that I had never held a conversation with her. The only thought my newly discovered hormones were registering in my brain, was “she is cute!”
In Matthew 18, Peter handed Jesus a verbal love note by asking, “how many times do I forgive when someone sins against me?” You see, Jesus was in the middle of sharing with His disciples how to deal with conflict, and Peter’s question is quite valid. How many times do I do this, because I am constantly surrounded by conflict?
Forgive means, “to no longer feel resentment towards someone’s mistake, to cancel a debt.” Now, this can be a very challenging step of faith because it requires you to trust God and not your own hand of retaliation. It can be difficult to move past what was done, but Paul writes in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned. You see, we were once standing with a check card of our own, asking forgiveness and needing a Savior. We must remember, that while we were still yet sinners, Christ died for us; He chose to forgive us by looking beyond our fault and seeing a need.
You see, anytime someone does wrong to you, no matter how small or great we might measure, the reality is that they have a greater need. The mistakes of others reveals their spiritual void and need. Therefore, forgiveness requires you to look beyond the fault and see they greater spiritual need in that person.
In my own life, I have had some pretty ugly things done to me, things that in my self-righteousness I could say that I didn’t deserve. And for a while, I chose to tightly hold onto the painful memories bitterness and resentment afforded me. But unforgiveness only creates a trap-pit from which you cannot release and move forward. It’s a deception the enemy uses in order to keep you looking back instead of forward. You see, like I had done in junior high, it didn’t matter that things were done that hurt, the only thing I could see was revenge. I wasn’t holding a love note, but a hate note.
Jesus’ response to Peter and in another time of teaching in Matthew 6 reveals His heart, forgiveness isn’t an option, it is a requirement, if you and I want to be forgiven. So, the first step to forgiving someone is to first forgive yourself. From what? You must release the bitterness, pain, and anger and know that Jesus loves you, and that even in your life, He’s forgiven you.
I eventually received my reply from Jennifer as she gently explained a 7th grader and freshman just could not work, but it allowed me to see, even at that young age, where my focus should be. When you forgive, your focus can return to the great things God has in your life. All the time in between before that is just wasted.
I urge you to not look back at what was wrongly done to you. Don’t consider or remain in Egypt. Renew your mind, and if you look back, look to remember that in your past, something wonderful was done through the blood of Jesus that opened the door for your today.