Christian Forgiveness Is An Important Struggle

“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22)

I have a friend who was fired from her job less than a year ago. She called me recently and shared with me that even though it has been more than a year since she lost her job, she continues to experience occasional waves of pain and anger. In her case, she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her boss and was summarily fired after the complaint was investigated. Her boss said her firing had nothing to do with the complaint, although he gave her no reason for her dismissal other than he could no longer trust her.

My friend ultimately hired an attorney and intended to file a lawsuit. However, she decided to drop the suit rather than endure the stress that would be associated with a long drawn-out case that would include interrogatories, depositions, numerous court appearances, attempts to discredit her, and yes, repeated instances where she would have to face her former boss. “I decided it would be best to drop it and move on with my life,” she told me.

The problem is while my friend dropped the litigation in an effort to move on with her life, she has not been able to move past the pain, anger and grief that is associated with the unfairness that life brings our way. “After a year,” she said, “you would think I would be over it.”

Frankly, I am not surprised to hear that she is still dealing with the fallout from this tragic event in her life. In fact, it would be more surprising to learn that she had moved on and let go of the fact that she was deeply hurt by what her former boss did to her.

Similar circumstances are confronted by Christians every day. All of us have things that happen to us in life, which create pain, anger and grief. In most cases, they come unexpectedly and are rarely deserved. How do we handle it? What instruction does God’s Word give to help us cope with such trauma?

It’s important to understand that if we don’t plow through what has happened to us, the seeds of bitterness will eventually sprout and begin to choke out the joy that God intends for us to have in life. In fact, Hebrews 12:15 says that a bitter root will always grow up and cause trouble.

Every Christian knows that Jesus instructed us that forgiveness should have no limits. That’s exactly what the above verse means. But what isn’t clear is that forgiveness is a continuing process. You just don’t forgive and move on. That sore spot will continue to show up again and again. And in such situations, we must remember to forgive again, and again. “I do not say to you up to seven times,” Jesus said, “but up to seventy times seven.”

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “We find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We, forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offense and we discover the old resentment blazing away if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offenses but for one offense.”

Forgiveness is not only a struggle, but it’s a very important struggle. If we truly want to live in communion with God, then we have to learn to forgive as He forgave. The real lesson to be learned is that the struggle to forgive is the struggle to be like Jesus.

Share on Facebook