Growing up, I remember my mum repeatedly telling me to read Matthew 18:21-22 whenever I would fall out with my brother. I was no good at maths, so I never bothered at the time to figure out the value of 70 x 7 (quoting from the NLT – some versions translate it as 77 or 7 x 7. Incidentally, 70 x 7 is 490 – simple!). All I knew was that it meant I had to forgive my brother.
Forgiveness does not always take away the hurt we feel, so it is important to remember not to dwell on the situation.
Forgiving people can be tricky, especially with ‘repeat offenders’. We tend to justify ourselves by pointing out that we have forgiven so many times before or that we are trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt.
Of course, it is sensible to remove ourselves from situations that repeatedly hurt us, but it is no excuse to withhold forgiveness from anyone – especially considering the extent to which we have been forgiven by God (Psalm 103:10-12). Sometimes, as much as we might want to extend forgiveness, it is just too difficult or too deep a wound.
It is in situations like that that we should be even more driven to forgive, not for the sake of the person that has hurt us but in accordance with scripture and for our resulting peace of mind. It also means that we will not go on to project our hurt onto other relationships.
Some simple steps that might help kick-start the process of genuine forgiveness include:
It’s refreshing just talking to God and knowing that you do not have to ‘rationalise’ why a situation has upset you, because he understands. It also helps to verbalise and appreciate why a situation has actually been upsetting. Sometimes, praying is enough to get personal resolution or you might be led to take further steps.
I often find that getting an opinion from a trusted friend shows I have overreacted to a situation and helps put things in perspective. They might also have some helpful advice on next steps to take to resolve the situation.
This is by far the simplest and most effective way to air grievances and restore relationships. Matthew 5:23-24 says to “go and be reconciled”. Forgiveness and restoration are intentional processes that take some effort.
Forgiveness does not always take away the hurt we feel, so it is important to remember not to dwell on the situation. And if the person does not reciprocate or appreciate the effort you have made to resolve the situation, you cannot force them to. If the harmony of your church is being disrupted, look at the steps Jesus suggests in Matthew 18:16-17 for settling the matter with the help of the church. Finally, continue to pray, and in God’s time, if it is his will, he will restore the relationship.