21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
~The book of Matthew, Chapter 18
It’s easy to write people off, and think it is impossible for them to become anything different from what they have been. But the entire Christian story is about the possibility of change, of people being made into new creations – and the Bible is full of taxcollectors and zealots, prostitutes and pious elites who are all re-thinking who they have been and who they want to be -- in light of Jesus.
We sat in a stark white room, the three of us; myself, my husband, and a very frustrated marriage counselor. We'd been going on and off for about four months and we'd just hit a road block, and when I say "we" I really mean "me."
For about two weeks we'd been rehashing the same issues. I couldn't seem to let go of the past. Anything that remotely reminded me of a past wound set me into a spiral of anger, furry, and resentment.
So, we sat in silence and it was then that God slapped me upside the head. No, really, I felt it.
How can you expect him to soar above who he was if you're keeping him grounded in who he has been? And how can you expect me to forgive all your mistakes when you cannot see past another's?
Somewhere in the five years we'd been married, I'd picked up two core lies. (One) was that forgiveness is useless, because (two) people cannot change. Somewhere I'd lost hope of the possibility of change, renewal, and restoration.
Jesus was serious about forgiveness. He commanded it, and not just a few times. Nope. Seventy times seven. That's 490 times!
490...can you even begin to think of anyone who has hurt you that much?
I don't think Jesus was asking us to be a doormat, but I do think he was using a hyperbole to make a point. And the point is merely this: While I cannot think of anyone who has hurt me 490 times, I bet that within the sum total of my lifetime I will have made at least that many mistakes, and I know that Jesus has made it possible for me to be forgiven of every one of them.
God is continually doing two things simultaneously for us because of Jesus. He's first and foremost forgiving us, but He is doing so with the hope He has in us for change. He did this with Israel. Continually Israel forsook Him and turned to other faiths, and continually God called them back and took them in again. God forgave Israel every time. A Father never loses faith in His children. There are no hopeless cases with God because of Jesus, and yet we as people continually find hopeless cases in others.
I wonder how many marriages are sacrificed on the altar of unforgiveness? I wonder how many women and men find themselves in a hopeless pit of despair built upon the lie that people cannot change.
You may be married, you may not be, but we've all written off someone based on who they've been. We've all harbored unforgiveness against someone. Today is the day to take those wounds, hurts, and issues to God. Today is the day to take forgiveness seriously and release that person to Him. Today is the day to take hold of the promise that the Christian journey is all about the possibility of change.
As for me, I think forgiveness is pretty neat. It's releasing my husband to be exactly who God is molding Him to be without tying him to the mistakes of the past. It's giving him the freedom to change. That's what Jesus does for me daily.
And hey, I'm pretty sure it just saved us money on our counseling bill.