Will you forgive me ... again?

 It happened again. Despite repeated warnings, one of our children had run headlong through the house and injured a sibling. She peered through her tangled curls at me “Will you forgive me?” Exasperated, I looked into her beseeching blue eyes … and paused. My child. Of course I forgave her, but how many times would I have to forgive her for the very same thing before she learned?

We all know, especially as Christ followers, we should be quick to forgive. Most of us have been given the sage advice that forgiveness is more about healing the wounded heart than anything it might do for the offender. And, although it is hard, it can be accomplished the first time. But are we silently insinuating “don’t let it happen again”?"

I used to keep a horribly snarky magnet on my desk of a cat which read: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’ll scratch your face off.” You hurt me deeply. It wasn’t easy to forgive you. Don’t expect me to do it again. Yet when Peter point-blank asked Jesus if we should forgive seven times (I imagine thinking himself generous) Jesus multiplied it ten-fold and again (Matthew 18:21-22).

I’ve certainly written my share of “if you do this again” ultimatums, both sternly delivered aloud and quietly whispered in my heart. Standing on the fragile bridge of human relationship, waving a fistfull of matches, thinking I can control someone else’s behavior with my threats. Instead, I see Jesus telling me I should be shoring up my side, repairing multiple strands for each strand they pluck.

Why should I continue to build up what another seems bent on tearing down?

Photo by Zach Lezniewicz on Unsplash

Because while I was still a sinner, before I even committed the first of countless sins, Christ died for me. I was forgiven by the One who has never done wrong before my rebellion even took root. For me to withhold forgiveness from another is far more serious than the mouldering of bitterness in my heart. I am failing to extend the same grace that has been shown to me when I hesitate to forgive … again.

"Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?" - Matthew 18:33 [NASB]

After answering Peter's question, Jesus tells a parable of a slaves whose debts are forgiven by his master. This same slave turns around to a fellow slave who owes him a debt and demands restitution. When his master found out, he turned him over to be tortured for not extending the same mercy.

Forgiveness is never easy. Repeatedly forgiving the same offense … be it running through the house or the betrayal of a spouse … feels that it will stretch our endurance beyond its breaking point. But - God never asked us to forgive out of our own resilience.

If we first bring our grievances to the mercy seat where our own wrongs were thrown into the sea (Micah 7:19), we can then turn to our fellow sinners with hearts full of compassion. In gratitude to the Father, we can generously repay wrong with right. Without keeping score. How many times will I forgive my family for the same offenses? As many as it takes.