Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)
Friend to Friend
I was so confused. I was talking to God, but it seemed He wasn’t talking to me. There seemed to be a barrier between us. I was a single, twenty-years old, and needed to make an important decision about my future, but I wasn’t hearing from God.
Mr. Thorp was an older, godly gentleman who mentored my Christian friends and me during our teen years. After one of our Bible study meetings, I asked him to pray for me.
“Let’s read some Scripture about prayer before we pray,” Mr. Thorp suggested.
First he turned to Matthew 18:19-22:
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Then he turned to Matthew 6:8-15. Then to Mark 11:22-26.
Every passage Mr. Thorp turned to regarding prayer had verses about forgiveness either before it or after it. He stopped reading, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Sharon, I sense that God is telling you that you have unforgiveness in your heart. Have you forgiven your father for what he did to you and what he withheld from you?” (Mr. Thorp had walked with me on my spiritual journey and knew very well what had gone on in my home.)
I was stunned. “Mr. Thorp,” I respectfully replied, “I came here to pray about my future, not talk about my past.”
“But, Sharon, God can’t talk to you about your future until you obey Him regarding your past.”
It was a rough morning, but a good one.
At that time in my life, I had been a Christian for seven years. My father came to Christ six years after me. He had been a violent, heavy drinker with a rage disorder who gambled, indulged in pornography, and had affairs. Dad hit my mom, terrorized my brother, and treated me as if I were non-existent. When he gave his life to Christ, he was truly a new creation. The change was and is one of the most miraculous transformations I’ve ever seen. Only the Almighty God could have orchestrated the twists and turns that led my father to the cross.
However, I had a niggling resentment toward my dad, which I clung to with a closed fist. Yes, I saw the change, but no, I didn’t trust him. I didn’t even like him. I still had nightmares, fits of fear, and trigger points of panic. Whenever Dad made a mistake— because lo and behold he still wasn’t perfect—the bitterness of my childhood rose up like bile. God was speaking to me through Mr. Thorp, saying, Now’s the time to let it go.
Mr. Thorp and I spent hours talking through the pain of my past and the purpose of forgiveness. We prayed. I cried. Finally, I cut my father from the noose of the past I held around his neck. In turn, God cut away the bitterness filling my heart and replaced it with a tender love of a daughter who saw her dad through the lens of grace. I was free.
Amazingly, after forgiving my father, my inability to hear from God was lifted. I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. I’m not saying that once you forgive, everything in your life will fall into place, But I do know that my refusal to forgive my earthly father hampered my communion with my heavenly Father.
So here’s what God’s asking you and me today…is there someone you haven’t forgiven? It’s time to cut them loose. Let it go. Forgiveness isn’t saying that what the person did isn’t wrong, but that you’re going to let go of the angry resentment, give the person to God, and live free. Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, and then realizing the prisoner was you.
Never once did Jesus tether our forgiveness to the caveat that the person we forgive has changed or asked for our forgiveness. Why? Forgiveness really isn’t about the other person at all…it’s about what we choose to do with forgive as Christ forgave us, and set ourselves free.
Lord, Today I choose to forgive _________ for ____________. I have been terribly hurt [misused, abused], but I am not going to allow the offense to control me any longer. Just as You have forgiven me, I now forgive ____________. I relinquish any need for revenge and place the consequences of this person’s action in Your hands.
In Jesus’ Name,
If you prayed that prayer of forgiveness, leave a comment and say, “I did it!” Let’s celebrate together.
Now It’s Your Turn
Consider this passage: “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:22-26 NIV)
Why do you think these two ideas are tethered?
Read Matthew 6:8-15.
Who is God calling you to forgive today?
What’s holding you back? Remember, the only person we hurt when we choose not to forgive is ourselves.
More from the Girlfriends
Sharon’s re-released and updated version of her best-selling book and Bible study guide, The Power of a Woman’s Words: How the Words You Speak Shape the Lives of Others are hot off the press. They include new content, including a chapter on the power of a woman’s words to her adult children…it’s complicated! Perfect for your women’s ministry’s next Bible study!
Words are one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and God has entrusted them to you! They echo in hearts and minds long after they are spoken. How will we use this gift? Your words can change the course of someone’s day…even someone’s life. Learn how to
- exchange careless words that hurt for intentional words that help others succeed
- recognize words that tear down confidence and replace them with words that build others up
- overcome the negativity that pushes people away and become a well of positivity that draws others in
- tame your tongue by practicing practical principles that help you think before you speak
- stop being disappointed in your lack of control by taking hold of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Also, CLICK HERE to sign up for Sharon’s FREE 5 DAY TAMING THE TONGUE CHALLENGE!