Just back from our final class of e3- Brazil! And we could not have gone finished on a greater note. Was blessed to have had a truly anointed moment of worship led by Luan Terra and Raquel Guerra. God also moved in a mighty way as over 100 of our students came to the altar for a time of repentance.
This all followed my final message for the Sao Paulo e3 students which was on “Repentance and Forgiveness”.
Forgiveness is so difficult for all of us for three very good reasons: It deals with the inexcusable. It handles the unacceptable and It has to relate to the unforgettable. Even the very word forgiveness tells us how difficult forgiveness is. Forgiveness comes from the Greek word- aphesis which means to free. Forgiveness means releasing to the Lord any bitterness that you might feel you have a right to have and thus, in the process, becoming free from the offender and their offense. It is the willingness to send the offender and the offense away into the hands of God, and let God take care of the matter.
The majority of psychologists and pastors whom I know pretty much agree that there is only one cure for bitterness, and that is forgiveness.
Peter asked Jesus the question that many of us think sometimes. “How many times do I have to forgive someone who sins against me?” Now Peter, for all of his reputation of being rash and impetuous, was also a pretty shrewd guy. He makes a suggestion to Jesus. He says, “Up to seven times?”
Well Peter knew that seven was an extremely generous amount of times to forgive because the going rate in that day was three times. According to Rabbinic law, you were obligated to forgive someone three times. But after the third time law dictated that you could beat the plowshare into a sword and fight.
So Peter thinks he is being very, very generous. But much to Peter’s surprise, Jesus gave an answer that was not only surprising, but absolutely stunning to his disciples.
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Now understand that when Jesus said “seventy times seven” he was not giving a math lesson. He wasn’t saying, no, you must forgive 490 times, but on the four hundred and ninety first time, have at it
In Luke 17:4 Jesus said that if a brother sins against you seven times in a day, and repents seven times in a day, “you shall forgive him.” Jesus tells us all that you always forgive-every time.
Jesus does not allow for three strikes and you’re out. Peter thought that if someone sinned against you, and he repented, and you forgave him, and then he did exact the same thing and repented and you forgave him again, he could say, “that’s two!” But Jesus said, “You can’t keep a scorecard. If someone sins against you the first time and you forgive him, then by doing that you are promising not to ever hold it against him again. So if he sins again, you can’t say “that’s two”, you’ve got to say “that’s one!”
Now how did Jesus arrive at this conclusion? Well you see, Peter was appealing to the law, but Jesus was appealing to love. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the law, it has everything to do with love. The law has limits, love does not. The law keeps count, love does not. The law keeps records, love does not. The law has a long memory, love has no memory. Peter must have learned this, because he himself wrote later on in 1 Ptr 4:8, that “Love covers a multitude of sins” Jesus taught him a lesson that if we could ever grasp- it would change our lives forever. It’s this: Our love is more powerful to heal those who sin against us, then the effects of their sin on us.
When we learn to be forgiving we are releasing ourselves to enjoy all the blessings that God has so richly intended for us. When we hold on to offenses, we become a hostage to the score.
You may be thinking: “Well, I could never forgive anyone that many times.” In that case this might be a good time for this reminder- Jesus is not making a suggestion, He is giving a command. He tells us that measure in which we forgive, is the measure in which we will be forgiven. That usually snaps me to! Keep in mind- He’s not saying to excuse hurtful behavior- just to let go of it. I am always helped by remembering this truth: Forgiveness is not a prisoner of your emotions, it is a servant of your will. Whether you feel like forgiving or not is irrelevant as to whether or not you can forgive. Through Jesus Christ, not only can we forgive, we must forgive.
e3-Brazil! has been an amazing journey. I see where God has done so much, not only in the students, but in me as well. Tomorrow, I have the great privilege to speaking at the church Igreja Presbiteriana Independente. I will check in with my final blog then, then back to the States.