It has been quite a week and I have had many opportunities to grow. Counting this past day, I have had two flat tires over an hour from home on 2 different vehicles. Fortunately, in each case, I was only delayed a while, and not injured or stranded. I also had more car repairs than anticipated on one of the vehicles (unrelated to the tire). My wife was gone for 5 straight days and nights, so I took time off work to full-time parent three young children without much of a break, and learned the value of patience, and sleep, and having any kid-free time to get anything done. I found my patience growing thin at times, like when I specifically tell a 4 year old what to do/not do and within 5 seconds, he does the opposite. I understand that self-control and memory are not the best yet, but you wonder after practicing something dozens or hundreds of times if they will ever get it. And they do, at times, but maybe I should be asking the same of myself. Will I ever get it right?
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Whether a child, or an adult, if someone disobeys what you ask of them, or sins against you, how many times are you willing to try again and give them another chance? I know some people have told me stories about how a business or someone had done them wrong, and they hold a grudge for years and vow never to trust them again. You see this in business, in communities, and even within churches and families. There are no lines unforgiveness does not cross. There are definitely situations where trust may have to be restored, when personal safety is put at risk, but the power forgiveness has in breaking these boundaries also knows no limits. There are times when I am more patient and forgiving with my own family than with strangers, and there are times when the opposite is true, depending on the situation. Anyone can get test your patience if you give them enough time. Who are you most patient with, and who are you least likely to forgive?
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
I don’t know about you, but Peter seems fairly generous in saying he is willing to forgive someone seven times, before closing the door. Have you ever had someone hurt you seven times, especially knowingly in the same way each time? At some point you may give up hope of seeing something different. You may have different expectations from those who claim to be Christians and those who are not, but at some point, they may start to lose your trust. Who is the most patient and forgiving person you know? Have they acted this way toward you, or everyone in their lives? Compared to our Lord, we all have room to grow. Is there anyone else who is more patient with us in our sin, yet still has hope? Through the example of Christ, we can gain a better understanding of grace, and patience, and love, and forgiveness. He is the living example to us of what is possible with all these things. Think of how many times he had to demonstrate this with Paul, and Judas, and each disciple, likely on a daily basis.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
If God is so willing to forgive us, when His children ask, is there a limit to how many times he will allow us to sin against Him? As Paul shares with us in Romans 6, if we are truly submitted to our Lord and have a knowledge of the sin in our lives, then our desire will be to obey Him and to crucify our old sin nature. When we persist in sinning against God and others, then our desire is not based in love, but only in serving our sinful desires. Our true nature is revealed. Brothers, let us use this knowledge to submit more of our lives each day to the transforming power of God’s love and forgiveness, so that we may act likewise toward others in our lives. Forgiveness not only has the power to break the control of sin in our lives, but also to break the bondage that past sins and others have inflicted on us. Forgiveness sets us free to a new grace-filled life in Christ each time we practice it. May you know the joy found in this each time you experience forgiveness!
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
Yours in Christ,