The Power of Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21—19:1
Jos 3:7-10a,11,13-17 / Psa 114

I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:22)

We forget what forgiveness means
When we’re offended or betrayed;
Lord, remind us of our own sins,
And Your mercy in times we strayed.

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him a huge amount was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. The master summoned him and told him, ‘You wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21–19:1)

Reflection

When a friend kept putting off or simply forgot to send an information that he promised to give me by text message, I told him with an edge in my voice that I never take anyone for granted, so I didn’t want to be taken for granted as well. His reaction was totally unexpected, as he started cursing me and even threatened me bodily harm, because he said he was under a lot of stress. Even as his cursing words stung me, I had to compose myself and calmly told him that I did not mean to hurt him, and was merely reminding him of his overdue promise. After a while, he calmed down and explained the reasons why he was so agitated. But even though he didn’t apologize for cursing me unnecessarily, I decided in my heart to forgive him.

Our Lord gave us this practical advice on forgiveness to spare us from the emotional baggage (and the disease that may result from it) of refusing to forgive. Besides, good relationships can take years to develop, so why lose it in a moment of anger? Lifting up our grievances to God will make us feel better, knowing that God’s justice never fails. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom.12:19). Harboring a resentment can be toxic if allowed to fester. If someone has done us a grave offense, his or her fault should not “contaminate” our feelings.

The lessons taught in the Bible on the subject of forgiveness are truly nuggets of wisdom. For instance, Proverbs says, “It is good sense in a man to be slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov.19:11). The same book says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, if thirsty, give him to drink; for live coals you will heap on his head, and the Lord will vindicate you” (Prov.25:21-22). A man who shows no anger or resentment in the face of insult or injustice, but instead returns it with patience and kindness wins the admiration and respect of his peers. And more important than this, God will surely reward him for showing that he is His child.

Let us forgive the wrong inflicted on us, because unless we do, we will always feel the bitterness that Satan plants in our heart. If we find it hard to “let go” and give up the resentment that we feel, ask for God’s help in prayer. He alone has the antidote for this vile ailment of unforgiveness. Remember what Jesus said: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 19:1)

Help us, dear God, when we are inclined to hate our neighbors for the injuries that they may have inflicted upon us. Make us realize that their offenses are insignificant compared to the sins that we had committed that sent our Lord Jesus to Calvary. Grant us the grace to forgive our enemies so that Your message of love may endure and prevail against the real enemy’s evil schemes. Thank You for Your lessons on the power of forgiveness. Amen.

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