I think forgiving is a habit. I think that the point of the “70 times 7” saying is that Jesus knew the more we do it, the closer it becomes to habit. He knows our hearts. He knows the habits our hearts form. He knows that we have a habit of being bitter, angry, begrudging, and cruel, and it takes a lot of effort – not to mention awareness and then willingness – to break the habits we so easily make.
Forgive them. Over and over. How? We need to be ready. Like running a marathon, our forgive muscles should be in the habit of all the phases they go through in a given race. You don’t get up one day and just run a marathon. There’s that whole no pain, no gain thing. There isn’t zero pain in forgiving. There isn’t the promise of no constant ache or a long haul of pushing forward through the sludge of hurt, miscommunication, misunderstandings, outright lies, and other sins against us. We come to expect them. We know them coming a mile away. As long as we have people in our lives, we know there will be something to forgive.
We have to do it. It has to be habit. It has to be the knee jerk reaction, not the countless reactions I’ve already had. Not the vengeance schemes. Not the long amounts of time stewing and replaying what they did wrong and what I did right. Not the blame game and silent treatments. Not the ways I’ve treated people with disdain and disrespect. The habit is forgiveness. In our families, in our marriages, in our parenting, in our jobs, in our play, in our neighborhoods. We need habit-forming forgiveness to characterize our lives.
But that’s pretty easy to say, or write, and not easy to do. At all.
How much has been forgiven me? The question puts it all into perspective. What if everyone else forgave me exactly the same way I forgive others? What if the amount of grace and mercy I dole out is all that I get back in return? What would that look like? We all know the golden rule, to do unto others. Doesn’t that include forgiveness? What if the golden rule meant that you create your own limitations? That everything you do has parameters and those same parameters will apply to you? Are you afraid you’ll run out of mercy? Do you think that some day you’ll need the Epic Forgive Button, and it won’t be primed and ready to push? Do you know where to go from there?
How much has been forgiven me? I have faced my depth of depravity, my ability to deceive others and myself, my arrogance, my selfishness. I have seen how deeply I have hurt others. How deeply I have hurt myself. I have seen the pit I created for myself over many years, in defiance and pride, in ignorance and willfulness, in my efforts to shift blame and stay comfortable. I have seen the worst of all sinners, terrifying, staring at me in the mirror.
And I have seen the Epic Forgive Button in action. The ladder that descended to me, even when I was still a long way off. I know how much. I know. What wondrous love is this. O my soul. O my soul! How can I walk away and forget? How can you?
“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
– from Matthew 18