WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
JULY 18TH, 2021
TOPIC: HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU FORGIVE?
BY T. O. BANSO
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’” (Matthew 18:21 New King James Version).
Unforgiveness is one of the commonest sins human beings are guilty of. It is also one of the commonest destroyers of relationships whether marital, social, or business. As long as you have relationships with other people, there will be reasons for unforgiveness. The closer the relationships, the more opportunities for unforgiveness.
People may offend or wrong you intentionally or unintentionally but you don’t have to harbour unforgiveness towards anyone. Those who walk in unforgiveness may think they are punishing or trying to get even with the offender, but they are actually hurting themselves unknowingly.
Forgiveness is not a piece of advice in the Bible; it is a command. Jesus, in the prayer He taught His disciples, said, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 New King James Version). In Luke 11:4, He said a similar thing: “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (New King James Version). The New Living Translation renders the word “debts” in the two scriptures as “sins.”
There are two views on forgiveness in the body of Christ: conditional and unconditional forgiveness. Conditional forgiveness means that the offender must repent before he is forgiven. In this case, the offence is a serious one that requires repentance before forgiveness. On the other hand, unconditional forgiveness means that forgiveness is not dependent on the offender’s repentance or plea for forgiveness. While some believe that this relates to offences that are not so serious, others believe that this relates to serious and unserious offences. In other words, forgiveness should not depend on repentance by the offender.
Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (New King James Version). In this scripture, forgiveness is dependent on repentance.
Also in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (New King James Version).
Within the context of conditional forgiveness, what should be the attitude of a Christian if the offender refuses to repent so that he can be forgiven? Matthew 5:44a says we should love our enemies, bless those who curse us. We should have an attitude of forgiveness (be ready to forgive) and not keep malice or hold grudges; we should pray for the offender to repent. Whenever he repents, we should forgive him. In the meantime, we should leave the matter to God.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (New King James Version). The latter part of this scripture tells us to overlook wrongs. This could be regarded as unconditional forgiveness. This scripture does not talk about the offender’s repentance or confronting him with his sin.
However, how often should we forgive offenders? Matthew 18:21 says, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’” (New King James Version). Could it be that Peter was struggling with forgiveness the way many human beings are? Did he want a limit on the number of times he should forgive? “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (verse 22 New King James Version). In this scripture and in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus did not give any condition for forgiveness or the limit on the number of times one should forgive.
Jesus used hyperbole to emphasize that there is no limit to forgiveness. In other words, don’t say you won’t forgive those who offend because you have forgiven them in the past. God forgave you your sins in the past and has not stopped forgiving you. 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If God forgives you, why should you not forgive others? “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13 New Living Translation). Don’t vow that you will never forgive anyone. Forgive those who repent. Also, learn to overlook wrongs.
Forgiveness doesn’t always mean that you should immediately restore your relationship with the offender. Whereas forgiveness is immediate, restoration of a relationship depends a lot on the offender’s attitude, particularly where the offence is serious. It is a process that requires the restoration of trust. After being forgiven, the offender must prove for a reasonable period that he has changed and you can trust him.
In addition, the offended must be convinced that the offender has changed. That does not rule out the possibility of being deceived by people who pretend they have truly changed. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 New King James Version). Some people could speak friendly words and still be planning evil in their hearts (Psalm 28:3). Therefore, be guided by the Holy Spirit, not by what people say or how they behave.
Nevertheless, it is more in your interest to forgive others as often as they offend you though the offender benefits too. Forgiving the offender shows your obedience to God, which opens you to His blessings. As you have seen, Jesus said that if you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you your sins. Unforgiveness hinders your prayer. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25 New King James Version).
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, his master said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him” (Matthew 18:32-34 New King James Version).
I admit that forgiveness could be, sometimes, extremely hard; it could be very painful. But your feeling is not superior to the Word of God. Obey God; forgive. Receive the help of the Holy Spirit; the flesh cannot forgive. The Bible says about Jesus, “Then he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven’” (John 20:22-23 New Living Translation).
What you stand to gain by forgiving is more than what you think you will lose. Leave the matter to God. He will do a better job than you. He is the God of justice. He will fight for you. Don’t open your life to the devil through unforgiveness. Don’t let him take advantage of you. “Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11 New King James Version).
Forgive your spouse, children, parents, friends, neighbours, and everyone as many times as they offend you and repent. Also, there are wrongs you should overlook whether anyone asks for forgiveness or not. The Bible doesn’t say to forgive and forget. It only says forgive. Make sure you forgive from your heart. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:35 New King James Version).
It doesn’t mean you will no longer remember. But make sure your forgiveness is sincere and you’re not thinking or talking about it. If you remember, reassure yourself that you’ve forgiven the person. Don’t let the devil torment you with guilt that you have not forgiven because you remember the offence. Unforgiveness is a poison. It will poison you spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Forgive as often as it is necessary.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, I forgive everyone I am habouring unforgiveness towards. I release them today. I receive deliverance from any bondage unforgiveness has put me. Holy Spirit, help me to forgive others as often as it is necessary. Father, help everyone finding it difficult to forgive others. Heal them spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally in Jesus’ name.
(For over 600 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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