Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Mt 18:21-22)
I had a bad day. You know, one of those where even the dog doesn’t cooperate? Well, ‘round about 10 a.m., I exploded. I screamed at everyone within a two-mile vicinity. And regretted it afterward.
You know the drill. “I should never have … and now they will always think of me like …”
Regret is a good thing, though, because it got me thinking about forgiveness and repentance. “Lord,” I said, in a sort of prayer, “Seventy times seven is REALLY hard to do.”
It looks good on paper. As Christians, we should be all “turn the other cheek,” “love the unlovely,” etcetera. Except I’ve seen anger and offense creep into the church. Someone lit into me the other day over something trivial, and I was taken aback. But struck harder by the thought I was supposed to pray for them and move on.
And I don’t mean pray they’ll trip.
The Bible says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Rm 12:19) We love to quote that, picturing lightning bolts striking someone and God up there beating his chest, “Bwahaha!” Truth is, He’s more apt to show them mercy if they’ll receive it.
Fixing the other person is not our job.
I heard speaker, Joyce Meyer, say she spent years trying to fix her husband, Dave, only to realize it didn’t work and she was the only one who was miserable. This helped me with my own relationships. I am apt to blow up first then swim in my regret for several days. But if I let God handle the one who’s antagonizing me, if my prayer is, “Give me a clean heart, O God,” and not, “Let Sister So-and-so stump her toe,” I can place myself in the Holy Spirit’s control and overcome those awful moments.
Overcome them and defeat them. Because God’s instructions to us are tougher than simply not fighting back. God said to forgive “seventy times seven,” then He said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mt 5:44)
“Aw, God, do I have to?”
Yep. And notice, all of those things require ACTION on our part. To DO GOOD we must actually DO something. To BLESS someone, to PRAY for them, we must speak peaceful words. To show God’s love we must be the antithesis of everything our flesh and mind asks us to do. I heard a preacher say, “The nose doesn’t have to associate with the armpit,” referring to the body of Christ. So, take comfort that your prayer doesn’t mean you have to spend a day with Mr. Grumpy, it does mean we must seek to react differently. To actually crucify our flesh. (Gal 5:24)
And become like Jesus, who loved the least of men, but faced the devil in faith and power and won. We grow strong in Christ. Strong enough to love when, at that moment, it’s the last … the hardest thing we will ever do.