Forgiving is difficult. Harsh words from long ago still resound within us as if they were said yesterday. They can’t be unspoken. You regret what you or someone else said, but you can’t forget it. Too often we harbor hurts in our heart that continue to fester. We resist making the first move or saying the reconciling word and stay in stubborn silence.
Poet Phyllis McGinley writes:
Sticks and stones are hard on bones.
Aimed with angry art,
Words can sting like anything,
But silence breaks the heart.
(Times Three, New York: Image Books-Doubleday, 1975, p. 176)
Forgiving is hard. It’s easier to justify our reluctance to do it: the wound hasn’t healed; the harm seriously hurt those you love; the person who caused pain shows no remorse or change of heart. We know why Peter asks Jesus to define how much disciples must forgive. But Jesus refuses to set those limits. Whether we translate his response “seventy-seven” or “seventy times seven,” his meaning is clear: Christ followers must not limit their willingness to extend forgiveness.
What do we expect a Christian to be good at doing? Jesus tells Peter that his followers become good at forgiving. How do we become forgiven forgivers when this is so hard? “Practice, practice, practice.” Forgiveness is an acquired virtue, not a natural one; it’s a spiritual discipline, a daily response of extending grace to those who wrong us. Forgiving affirms our hope in the possibility of renewed relationships. It refuses to let yesterday’s sins imprison tomorrow’s possibilities.
What steps could I take today to make forgiveness a holy habit in my life?
God of grace, deliver me today from merely forming good intentions about restoring a friendship. Show me how to close the distance between us. Amen.