Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.Luke 17:3-10
Forgiveness is a hard thing sometimes. I do not deny that. In fact, it took the death of God’s only-begotten Son to bring forgiveness to us so that we could be reconciled to the Father. Yes, forgiveness is hard, but it is not impossible. Jesus would never instruct or command us to do something that was impossible for us to perform. Therefore, we are not only supposed to forgive, we are able to forgive.
The disciples listened to Jesus’ command to forgive every time they were offended and they quickly come to the conclusion, “we don’t have enough faith for that!” Jesus rebukes this attitude and tells them that it is not a matter of faith but a matter of will. We have been given the faith to understand that God forgave us. Therefore, we can clearly see that we are just as bad a sinner as someone who has hurt us. If God forgave us, we can forgive them. Therefore, it is a matter of our will when it comes to forgiveness.
We must actively choose to forgive others as God did for us. But when we do this, we don’t need think that we have done something special. We have simply done what we were commanded to do.
This teaching comes at the end of a discourse on repentance. Jesus taught that there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents, and that we should rejoice when we see it happening. He then taught that the wicked do not repent even when suffering in hell for their actions. This lesson on forgiveness ties right into our attitudes about repentance. If we are unwilling to allow space for repentance when we are hurt by others, what does that say about us? That attitude looks more like the other brother in the parable of the prodigal son than it does like God.
If we want space to repent when we offend others or when we offend God, then we need to give space to others to repent when they offend us.
Further, we don’t need to think we have done something special when we have done this. Our personal repentance, our forgiving of others, and our righteous walk are nothing for us to brag about. They are our duties as children of God. We do not gain the favor of God and deserve eternal salvation based upon these things. We have been saved by the blood of Christ!
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:8-10
However, it is our duty to perform these things because we are saved and we are thankful! We have been given a new life in Christ Jesus so that we can do good works; so that we can repent; and so that we can forgive.
We can, and we should.