Monday, August 29, 2011

Seventy-Times-Seven Forgiveness

This post is mainly about forgiveness, because that it really what has been on my heart lately.

The thing is, I know what Jesus has to say about forgiveness. He encouraged his disciples to give up that whole seven-times concept and replaced it with the impossible seventy-times-seven concept. In other words, forgive over and over and over. Waaaaaay past what comes naturally, even for naturally patient and forgiving, kind hearted and lovely people.

This kind of forgiveness requires Jesus Himself in order to live it out.

And, I find, from time to time my heart can be deceptive. Maybe I have some sort of strange emotional amnesia, because lately I have honestly been praying and felt strongly impressed that I need to be sure I have forgiven everyone in my life for any offenses they may have done. Except while I am there praying, thinking about it, I really and truly feel like I have done just that. Nothing comes to mind. I feel like I am all forgived up.

Then later I realize I am completely NOT all forgived up.

For instance, after I am all done praying, I get a phone call from a family member who has decided to take vacation somewhere other than here (the place they kept promising they would come). They are oh-so-very excited about it and wanting me to share their joy. Yet I find this harder to do than I thought, because resentment and unforgiveness are twin sisters. I really didn't realize I was so upset about it, but here I am, not feeling like a priority in this person's life and thinking back on all the other ways this person has made me feel badly in the past.

Thinking back on all the ways I have really NOT truly forgiven.

I find it very sobering that Jesus said that if we forgive (maybe even to the extent we forgive) we will be forgiven. But if we do NOT forgive, God will not forgive us either.

I have read accounts of amazing forgiveness in action. People like Corrie Ten Boom, for example, who forgave one of the concentration camp guards who tortured and abused both her and her dear sister. And I am not even struggling with great forgiveness, I am struggling with little hurts, slights, irritations....

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...
{1 Corinthians 13:7}

Is my love for my family, my friends, even my acquaintances and enemies like this? {And yes, Jesus told His followers to love even enemies!}

All I can do, can meekly suggest you do, is this:
As the Lord brings these kinds of things to mind, to the surface of your heart, confess it to Him. Ask Him to help you forgive. Choose to release that vise-grip of control, of anger, of pain... He is ready to bless, to empower, to forgive.

Can we pray?

Oh Lord, help me to forgive. I have been forgiven. Of so much. Even now, I need Your forgiveness, every day. I fail. I falter. Give me Your love to extend. I recognize I can not produce it on my own. I let all this bitterness, this hurt, {and You know them all, precious Jesus} go, in your name. Empower me to this amazing seventy-times-seven kind of forgiving. Heal the wounds in my heart...
In the matchless name of JESUS.

~amy danielle


  1. Hi! I was just wondering if you really do believe that if we don't forgive others, God doesn't forgive us? That, to me, seems to be saying that God doesn't understand how difficult we find it as mere mortals to forgive, and so punishes us for that. I find it difficult to square the thought of a loving God with a God who "won't" forgive our weaknesses.

    Yes, he calls on us to try, he calls on us to ask for his help, but I'm sure that - as long as we are truly sorry, repentant and honest, about how didfficult we find it to forgive another person for whatever they have done - he forgives us this, and gives us the strength to work on that.

    For many years I struggled to forgive the woman who had an affair with my husband, even though she knew he was married. It was really hard. Every time I thought I had got over it, I found myself thinking of her name and hating her. (Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. But she wasn't my favourite person) But do you think God didn't understand? Do you think God didn't forgive me for that? I can't believe it. I just asked him to help me forgive her, over and over, every time I thopught of her, and found myself hating/not liking her. And one day, I found myself feeling sorry for her.

    Of course, I do have to wonder why I found it easier to forgive my husband - after all, HE had the affair as much as she did, and HE knew he was married as much as she did. But, there you is odd. People are odd.

    But I do struggle with your certainty that if we don't forgive, God won't forgive. I think He is much bigger than that.

    I'm glad you are healed of your illnesses though.

  2. Dear friend,
    I am sorry you have had such heart-wrenching hurt in your life. I understand. Really. Without going into detail here, publicly, I can only say that I agree that forgiveness does not come easily for us.

    I don't claim to understand all the things Jesus said, and I certainly do NOT think they are easy. I think He gives us an impossible standard, one we can not reach on our own, and then turns around and empowers us to live it. I think of the verse where it is said that with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

    ~amy danielle

  3. I just so *happened* to come across this link on Ann's page, and think it is no mere coincidence. Please read it if you can spare a few free minutes:
    ~amy danielle

  4. I think that the most important thing in understanding God and forgiveness... as hard as this is to stomach is looking at what scripture says about forgiveness.

    "Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
    “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” Matthew 18:32-35

    One of the key problems we face with forgiveness is understanding the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. These two are not mutually exclusive. Forgiveness is a singular act between a person and God or an offended party. This is why the religious leaders had a field day with Jesus when he told the paralytic "your sins are forgiven"... only God and an offended party can extend forgiveness. So Jesus was claiming the authority of Lord.

    Forgiveness does not mean you suddenly go out to tea and forget everything. Forgiveness means that the situation or person has been released from owing you a debt. You are no longer seeking revenge. It is finished. You do not expect to get anything in return. This is the manner in which we have been forgiven and God does expect this of us.

    Reconciliation is an act between two people. You have to have someone to be reconciled to and just because you forgive someone for an offense does not mean that you are going to be skipping in fields of peonies. So while God forgives the world, He is not reconciled to the world because many choose to deny him.

    Finally, look at the Lord's Prayer: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14-15

    This is a really difficult statement to ignore and stomach. In order to let go of what people have done to me, to continually forgive them no matter what they say or assume and to remember that I do this forgiveness-thing to be right with God. It is all about Him and living in a right relationship with our Lord. Taking these truths seriously is so important.
    He does not say forgive so I can forgive you because he is being cruel... he understands what unforgiveness does to the very core of our being. We can't be with him if we can't forgive.

    Philip Yancey has a great book titled, "Prayer" that goes on to explain the debts/debtors section of The Lord's Prayer with beautiful clarity. Dr. Henry Cloud's book, "Boundaries" also has some great ideas on reconciliation and forgiveness.

    Hope this helps the discussion.

  5. To the dear woman who first commented: I can only begin to understand your pain in this. I've had more than one traumatic, deeply wounding experience in my life, too, but I think that unfaithfulness in marriage is likely one of the most painful experiences any woman could experience...and I am so very sorry. I thought I had a good understanding of biblical forgiveness until I read "Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds" by Pastor Chris Brauns, and I think that you would find some comfort and wisdom from reading it, as well. In fact, if you could provide a mailing address to Amy, I'd be happy to send one to you. And if you would like to email me privately, please feel free to do so: pollywogcreekporch(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and comments. As I told Patricia in a private email, it was a long time ago, and we are still married after 26 years. I used it as an example to address my comments.

    And while I don't understand some (many!) of the difficult things that Jesus said, while I think about them, and chew them over, and try to grasp their meaning, I don't let them get in the way of the wonderful truth that God loves us so much that he was willing to become human, to show us how to live, and to die that our weaknesses and failings can be forgiven and that we might have eternal life. Next to that, everything else pales into insignificance.

    You are lovely people. Thank you.


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