Forgiveness | House Rules
Monday— Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
The pounding of iron on iron was like a heartbeat, muffled by the screams of the bloody men on crosses and the jeers of the mob. Every thud of the heavy hammer drove a spike deeper into tender flesh. Blood spurted. Wood cracked. Soldiers mocked. Through sweat-blurred eyes, Jesus looked up. Every nerve shrieked in agony. Every cell of His body demanded that it stop while every thought submitted to it: “Thy will be done…” To the azure sky He breathed these words: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” It was not before; it wasn’t after. It was WHILE he was being tortured, He forgave them.
Jesus never asks us to do anything He has not done first. So as the Son of God was being crucified, He showed us how to forgive people who are not the least bit sorry. Imagine the jeers when the soldiers heard those words. “We don’t know what we’re doing? Watch this!” Of course the soldiers knew what they were doing. They were professional executioners. All in a day’s work. So why did Jesus say that? Because those men did not understand the significance of their evil acts. Their sin against Him wounded Him on a level they could not know—so He forgave them. People wound us on a level they do not know. They sin against us from their own world of hurt—so we forgive them, like Jesus did. And we join our hearts with His.
Final Thought: We are most like Jesus when we are forgiving people who are not the least bit sorry.
Prayer: Father, forgiveness is so hard when the people who hurt me don’t even care. Thank you, Jesus, for showing us how it’s done. I couldn’t do it without knowing you did it first. So help me forgive even while I’m being wronged, like you did. Amen.
Tuesday— If your brother sins …show him his fault in private; if he listens…you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15
“I can’t believe he said that to me!” snapped Zelda. Quin looked up from his computer. “No kidding,” he remarked with a wry grin. She slammed a book on her desk and glared at him. “Well, you weren’t there! You didn’t hear him.” He shrugged and shook his head. “You’re right. But you’ve been going on about it for days. He shouldn’t have said that, but have you talked to him or are you only talking to everybody else? If you don’t talk to him, you’ll doom your relationship. Is that what you want?”
What is your first reaction when someone wrongs you? Most of us start telling everybody else about it. We seek out people who will agree and sympathize. The more we tell it, the madder we get. The bigger the crowd of supporters, the more justified we feel in hanging on to our anger. That’s the natural, sinful way of dealing with hurts. But Jesus has a better way. He says to go to the person in private. That meeting will be more productive if we first go to Jesus about it. With His strength and wisdom, we can then speak to the offender without hostility. God cares more about the relationship than He does about who said what to whom. In the church, in our homes, relationships are everything. Without healthy relationships, a home cannot fulfill its purpose. Neither can a church. When we handle offenses like Jesus told us too, we build rather than destroy relationships.
Final Thought: How do you handle it at home when someone hurts you? Go to Jesus first, and then go to that person.
Prayer: Father, how am I doing in restoring relationships with people who’ve hurt me? Most of the things I get so mad about aren’t worth remembering. Help me handle it wisely when someone hurts me and value relationships over being right. Amen.
Wednesday— Peter…asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Matt. 18:21
We understand you, Peter. We’d like to know that too. Good old Peter was always asking the questions we’re thinking but are too afraid to ask. One of those questions is about checklists. We’d appreciate a forgiveness checklist so we know when we’ve done enough. But God doesn’t use checklists and aren’t we glad? What if God had a forgiveness checklist for us? What if we crawled over to God to ask forgiveness one more time, and He said, “Too bad. I’ve already forgiven you your allotted number of times. It’s Hell for you now.” Thankfully, He doesn’t. He sees whether or not our hearts are truly repentant, and He extends buckets full of grace when we agree with Him about our sin. Since God’s forgiveness is unlimited, ours must be too.
But this is where we’d like to raise our hands with a follow-up question. “Lord, if I keep forgiving the same thing, he’ll just keep doing it to me. Do I have to keep taking his abuse?” NO. Forgiveness and healthy boundaries can walk hand-in-hand. Forgiveness is a matter of the heart; restoring relationship is a matter of rebuilt trust. We must forgive over and over, but we are not required to maintain a relationship until the person demonstrates true repentance. Sally spent Bob into debt. He forgave her, but he won’t get her a new credit card. She did it again. He forgave her again, loved her, and treated her kindly. But he insisted that she get help or he would control every penny. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we give others a blank check.
Final Thought: Forgiveness says, “I don’t hold your sin against you. But I love you too much to let it continue.”
Prayer: Father, am I holding on to bitterness because of other people’s sin against me? Bring to mind the faces of those I have not forgiven. I lift them up to you and let go. I forgive them as many times as you’ve forgiven me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Bear with each other and forgive one another… Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
“He forgot my birthday again,” Jen snapped to her friend Kay. “I forgave him once, ten years ago. But I will never forgive him this time. He’ll pay for this.” Kay frowned and shook her head. “Man, what a loser. Was he even sorry?” Jen lifted a brow. “Oh, he says so. He was almost in tears last night, begging my forgiveness. But he’s not really sorry or he wouldn’t keep forgetting.” Kay nodded. “You’re right. It’d be no supper and no sex at my house for a year if Rog did that.” Jen laughed. “Yeah, if I don’t punish him, he’ll keep doing it. I’m thinking about scratching that new car he’s so proud of. That should make him remember.”
It’s easy to see the error in someone else’s passive-aggressive attitude. Of course Jen should not scratch her husband’s car just because he forgot her birthday. But for many people, revenge is the first response when someone wrongs them. That’s why the Bible has to be specific in telling us to forgive instead. Forgiveness is not our natural reaction—vengeance is. We want to hurt them the way they hurt us. But two hurts don’t create happiness. That’s like trying to get out of debt by spending more money. Two hurts only double the pain. So God warns us to forgive each other the way He forgave us. He’s taking notes. He’s watching how we handle our hurts. When we refuse to forgive someone, we’re saying to Jesus, “I appreciate your forgiveness, but this person hurt me more than I hurt you. My wound is deeper than yours.” Do we have the right to make that excuse?
Final Thought: Do you punish others when they offend you? Does it create peace and joy? Try it God’s way.
Prayer: Lord, my natural tendency is to strike back when I’m hurt. It may not be physical, but I harbor hatred and vengeance in my heart towards them. I want to learn to forgive, like you forgive, and trust you to do justice your way. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. Matt. 18:19
“Hey, I need a couple of you to agree with me about getting that new house! It’s too expensive, but the Bible says it’s mine!”
“Our church is agreeing that none of us will get cancer. If every church did that, we could eradicate cancer entirely!”
“My wife and I are agreeing that God will provide everything we need, so we both quit our jobs.”
This passage in Matthew is one of the most misunderstood in the Bible. Like the words “judge not,” these words about agreeing have been yanked from their context and applied willy-nilly to all kinds of situations where they don’t belong. The first key to understanding the Bible is to let scripture interpret scripture. So let’s consider the context of this verse. Jesus is teaching about forgiveness and how to deal with offenders. The first time he mentions “two or three” is in verse 16. It’s in reference to taking two or three witnesses to confront an unrepentant brother or sister. If the defiant offender still refuses to repent, then on the testimony of two or three who agree, God approves their taking further action. Verse 20 confirms that when those two or three are acting under the direction of the Lord, He is with them. This promise is not talking about prayer at all. It means that when church leaders agree about confronting, disciplining, and forgiving someone, God agrees with them.
Final Thought: Agreeing with someone does not guarantee what you want; it guarantees what God wants (Psalm 133:1).
Prayer: Father, I have misunderstood those words many times. I’ve been disappointed when my agreement with someone didn’t produce what I asked for. Now I see it was my mistake, not yours. Help me agree with your plans, not mine. Amen.