What’s harder than forgiving someone who has offended you? Forgiving someone who continues to offend you.
Sometimes you’re required by your circumstances to be in a relationship with someone who continues to hurt you in some way. It may be a former spouse with whom you share children and with whom, therefore, you must co-parent. It may be a parent, sibling, coworker, or employer.
How many times are we required to forgive our enemies? Peter asked Jesus the same question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven (seventy times seven) times.” (Matthew 18:21–22, NIV)
Does this mean you keep count and refuse to forgive your enemy at offense number 491? No. This was Jesus’s way of saying that you need to keep forgiving your enemies as your Father keeps forgiving you for your sins and transgressions.
Refusing to forgive your enemies not only offends God; it makes you a slave to sin. It fills you with rage and bitterness, which will kill your mind, body, and spirit. And before sin kills you, it will render your life miserable. Not your enemy’s life. Yours.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14–15, NIV)
You have a choice to forgive your enemies, and God is more than willing and able to help you. When you decide to forgive—and keep forgiving—those who come against you, God goes to work replacing the bitterness in your heart with His supernatural, unfathomable peace. If you’ve never experienced God’s peace in your heart, you’re in for a remarkable surprise. It will heal you, calm you, and even make you feel loving toward your enemy. God’s peace allows you to see Jesus in your enemy. Remember, God loves all of us, even those who are far from Him.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27–28, NIV)
The secret to inviting God’s peace into your heart is relying on Him to fight your battles. He is your warrior King and gladly dispatches His angels to battle every force of darkness in the unseen realm. You can lay down your weapons and surrender all of the hatred, fear, and anger in your heart. God will deal with your enemy in His own way. It may not be your way of handling the situation, but it will be the right way.
As Jesus suffered the undeserved torment and humiliation of crucifixion, He asked His Father in heaven to forgive the very people who not only demanded His death but jeered, insulted, and mocked Him and took sinful delight in His incredible pain and suffering.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NIV)
If Jesus, who was as human as we are, could rise above such horrific circumstances, so can we.