Peter asked Jesus just how many times he had to forgive someone, and he used the Old Testament number of seven. (Genesis 4:24) But Jesus answered Peter’s question by saying, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” So it’s not really about numbers, it’s more about our response to that transgression against us. When we forgive someone, we’re letting go of resentment…we’re refusing to take offense…and we’re not allowing a root of bitterness to grow. For just as God forgives us, we must forgive others. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Most of us would be quick to deny any root of bitterness in our lives…but let’s think about it for a moment. Do you hold a grudge against someone who in your eyes disrespected you? Or are you resentful against someone who hurt your pride and caused you pain and embarrassment? You may not be able to even remember the details of the incident…but still anger rises up every time you think of that person. A root of bitterness can take on many faces and lie deep within…so deep that we even lie to ourselves about its very existence. But know that bitterness poisons your life and hinders God’s work in and through you. The answer is forgiveness…allowing the past to be the past. For forgiveness is not meant for the perpetrator, but for yourself.
The concept in this Scripture is very clear…forgive so that you may be forgiven. So why yet do we find so much pleasure in holding onto grudges? What starts out as a simple miscommunication or disagreement, morphs into something with a life all its own. Anger simmers, and shifts into resentment…frustration stews over how we’ve been wronged, and slowly changes into spite and hard feelings. Holding grudges only harm ourselves…they allow the root of bitterness to take hold and flourish within…and they prevent God from working fully in our lives.
As this year ends – wipe the slate clean…set free those feelings of resentment against others you’ve been harboring. But the very most important person to forgive is yourself. Make the decision to no longer blame yourself for self-perceived short comings and outcomes that may or may not had been within your control. Forgive others and yourself, and don’t allow guilt and blame to follow you into the new year.