Confession • Devotion #6: Real Forgiveness?
Kenny Hovis | Prison Ministry Director
We need to face it. We all do stupid things, which in hindsight, we would do everything in our power to go back in time to change history. It is instances like this that we truly test the limits and willingness of others to forgive us for our terrible decisions in life.
I grew up on a farm, the only boy in our family for most of my childhood. Unless I wanted to play games with my sisters, I had to be creative when it came to occupying my idle time. I started my first business, selling night crawlers to local fisherman. I built a two-story tree house. I made a pile of cinder blocks into a make-believe tank. It was fun boy stuff.
On one of my make-believe military excursions, I was armed with my Daisy BB gun. I was rolling around shooting trees, ant hills, or anything that was supposedly attacking me. I looked at our barn and saw my enemy’s stronghold. I started laying down suppressive fire. One of my shots found a window, and the new glass that my dad had just put in throughout the barn, just shattered. It was so cool! So much so that I proceeded to shoot out every window in the entire barn. My dad would not even talk to me for three days. I had done something that drove a wedge between my father and me, and he was struggling to forgive me.
Much like the strain that my actions put on mine and my father’s relationship, sin drives a wedge between our Heavenly Father and us. When we are truly repentant and turn from our sin, He forgives us. Being forgiven is a phenomenal feeling, but how quick are we to follow the example when a person sins against us? We tend to hold a grudge and always bring up the past. That is not the model Jesus shared.
Peter brings up the topic to Jesus in Matthew 18:21, “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’” Peter thought he was giving the “churchy” answer saying we should be willing to forgive someone up to seven times. Jesus, being the All-Knowing God put Peter in his place in verse 22, “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Put simply, without ceasing. It is just as many times as God will forgive us, thankfully!
In Matthew 6:12, right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer He says, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” We are supposed to forgive just as God forgives us: without ceasing, without holding a grudge, and without bringing up the past. We have experienced the freedom that comes from forgiveness, and we are supposed to take that model and apply it to our lives. So much so, Jesus gives a warning in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
How many times are you willing to forgive someone? Before you answer that, maybe you should remember all the things you have been forgiven.