Your sister promised not to take your clothes without asking, but then she did it again—and this time, she stained your favorite shirt. The problem isn’t even the shirt at this point; you’re upset that she repeated the same offense! How do you respond in a godly manner?
Forgiveness is much easier if the offense is never repeated. Unfortunately, our friends and family are human. They will fail us, disappoint us and sin against us at times. Forgiving a repeated offense is hard, but it’s not impossible—and God calls us to do it. Here’s the why and how.
Jesus Said “Seventy Times Seven”
In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter approaches Jesus with a question: “How many times do I need to forgive?” Jesus answers with a math equation: “Seventy times seven.” This abstract answer was meant to make a point: Don’t keep track of how many times you forgive others, because God forgives you limitlessly!
When we get angry about a repeated offense, we need to remind ourselves of God’s grace. How many times do we repeat the same sins, return to God and receive His forgiveness? Just as we receive His mercy, we’re called to extend that mercy to others.
Entrust Yourself to God’s Justice
One of the best definitions of forgiveness I’ve ever heard was from the mouth of an Amish man. This man’s daughter was one of the Amish schoolgirls killed in a tragic mass murder over a decade ago. When asked how he was able to forgive his daughter’s killer, he said, “I have to entrust him to God’s justice…because God can judge him better than I can.”
When we entrust the situation or person to God’s justice, we’re putting faith in who God is while also stepping into the freedom He intends for us. Unforgiveness is bondage. Only by releasing our offender to God are we free to move through life without a grudge.
Forgive and Be Set Free
Letting go of an offense is often a gradual process. You might have to pray about it every hour of every day…every time it comes to mind. You’ll have to take your thoughts captive and give them to Christ. You’ll have to refuse gossip and only speak what is true and lovely. This is not an easy task! But by remembering what Christ did for you, you can extend grace to your offender in ways they may never have expected.
Obviously, this might require forgiving something more than a borrowed shirt. If you need prayer, accountability or help through forgiveness, find a mentor or friend to walk through this with you. But don’t use those conversations to vent about the situation. Truly seek healing and turn the situation over to God. He will teach you how to forgive “seventy times seven.”