Lord, How Can I Forgive?
Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times?
Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven! Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants. When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000], and because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made. So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything. And his master's heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [canceling] the debt. But that same attendant, as he went out, found one of his fellow attendants who owed him a hundred denarii [about twenty dollars]; and he caught him by the throat and said, Pay what you owe! So his fellow attendant fell down and begged him earnestly, Give me time, and I will pay you all! But he was unwilling, and he went out and had him put in prison till he should pay the debt.
When his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told everything that had taken place to their master. Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to. And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you? And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed.
So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses. - Matthew 18: 21-35
Forgiveness. We all know we're supposed to do it, and I think that on a certain level in certain circumstances we do forgive. Sometimes it's rather easy - even a boost to our ego. A boost to our ego? Certainly! “Oh, I'm so wonderful. Look at what a good Christian I am! I'm forgiving that rotten person who just cut me off on the freeway.”
But what about forgiving those who have hurt us on a deep, fundamental level? Can we still forgive them? Do we want to? And how many times do we need to forgive anyway?
In September, 2001, when I realized that the root cause of my physical and emotional problems was the highly toxic chemical marketed under the name aspartame, I was outraged. Literally half of my life had been devastated by this chemical. But to make matters worse, the apparent reason for this toxin being released into our food supply was greed, plain and simple.
It took a little time for the truth to sink in. It took even longer for my anger to subside. But with God's help I released it to Him and forgave those responsible for my situation. I was very thankful to have been set free from the hell I had been living in for almost 20 years. I thought I was doing very well, considering the circumstances. But then days like last Saturday come along.
The vast majority of my 30+ symptoms either disappeared or were greatly diminished within the first eight weeks after I stopped using aspartame and MSG. But there has been one area that continues to cause me problems - my memory. Some would say that a woman my age (40) should expect such things. I would welcome normal, natural memory glitches. I also find that I am not the only one who suffers because of this problem. My husband and son feel the consequences as well.
I might go for days or weeks without realizing that there are numerous things slipping my mind. Then there are days when I simply sit, knowing that I'm forgetting and unable to do a thing about it. I'll make lists, then either forget I've made them or forget to keep making them. Some days I do the things that I notice are critical, like the laundry, because there isn't any clean underwear. At times the frustration becomes overwhelming and the tears flow as I wonder if I will ever be “normal” again. My heart breaks as I try to explain to our 3 year-old son that mommy sometimes forgets things. My heart soars to see how eager he is to help me in even the smallest way. I thank God every day for my loving, understanding husband. And I wish that those responsible for my condition would suffer a painful, hideous death. Doesn't sound terribly Christian, does it?
It doesn't take me as long as it used to to make the decision to forgive them, and I'm sure that's a good thing. But then I wonder if I'll ever come to a place where the forgiveness will “stick,” when I won't wish these people evil even for a moment. And I marvel at Yeshua's ability to fully and completely forgive those who nailed Him to the cross while He was still hanging there, suffering more than any of us will ever know. Out of His love and mercy, Yeshua forgave those who hammered the spikes through His arms and feet. And He forgave each one of us - you and me - for requiring Him to willingly lay down His life, to endure the torture of crucifixion, and to storm the gates of hell so that we might be united once again with the loving God who made us.
In light of the forgiveness that Yeshua has given to me, I have no choice but to forgive in return. If I never get any better than I am today I will praise my God for freeing me from a living hell and restoring my life. And I just might take another stab at keeping those lists!