And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:4-5
“You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” -Lewis Smedes
When Jesus abides underneath the wound in your heart, His love flows over that wound bringing healing and wholeness so that you can give that heart-healing forgiveness away to others. And when that happens you will the good of the wrongdoer.
It’s the Jesus way. When Jesus hung on the cross just before his death, do you remember what he said?
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
You’ll never be long-suffering until you see him going to the cross to suffer for you. You will never be able to forgive other people their little tiny debts toward you until you see him dying on the cross to pay your great debt. You’ll never stop being a judge, putting yourself in the judgment seat, till you see the real Judge of all the universe getting out of the judgment seat and coming down and going to court and being condemned and being tortured and killed for you.
Someone tells the story of Daniel. Daniel is big. He used to make his living by lifting weights and teaching others to do the same. A real-life “Incredible Hulk”.
Daniel worked in a weightlifting gym and dreamed of owning his own. The bank agreed to finance the purchase if he could find someone to cosign the note. His brother agreed.
They filled out all the paperwork and waited for approval. Everything went smoothly, and Daniel soon received a call from the bank telling him he could come and pick up the check. As soon as he got off work, he went to the bank.
When the loan officer saw Daniel, he looked surprised and asked Daniel why he had come.
“To pick up the check,” Daniel explained.
“That’s funny. Your brother was in here earlier. He picked up the money and used it to retire the mortgage on his house.”
Daniel was incensed. He never dreamed his own brother would trick him like that. He stormed over to his brother’s house and pounded on the door. The brother answered the door with his daughter in his arms. He knew Daniel wouldn’t hit him if he was holding a child.
He was right. Daniel didn’t hit him. But he promised his brother that if he ever saw him again, he would break his neck.
Daniel went home, his heart bruised and ravaged by the trickery of his own brother. He had no other choice but to go back to the gym and work to pay off the debt.
A few months later, Daniel met a young girl who led him to faith in Jesus Christ. Soon Daniel was involved in a local church and learning all he could about his Lord.
But though Daniel had been forgiven so much, he still found it impossible to forgive his brother. The wound was deep. He didn’t see his brother for 2 years. Daniel couldn’t bring himself to look into the face of the one who had betrayed him. And his brother liked his own face too much to let Daniel see it.
But an encounter was inevitable. Both knew they would eventually run into each other. And neither knew what would happen then.
The encounter occurred one day on a busy street. Listen to how Daniel tells it:
I saw him, but he didn’t see me. I felt my fists clench and my face get hot. My initial impulse was to grab him around the throat and choke the life out of him.
But as I looked into his face, my anger began to melt. As I saw him, I saw the image of my father. I saw my father’s eyes. I saw my father’s look. I saw my father’s expression. And as I saw my father in his face, my enemy once again became my brother.
Daniel walked toward him. The brother stopped, turned, and started to run, but he was too slow. Daniel reached out and grabbed his shoulder. The brother winced, expecting the worst. But rather than have his throat squeezed by Daniel’s hands, he found himself hugged by Daniel’s big arms. And the two brothers stood in the middle of the river of people and wept.
Daniel’s words are worth repeating: “As I saw my Father in his face, my enemy once again became my brother.”
Try that. The next time you see or think of the one who broke your heart, look twice. As you look at his face, look also for His face—the face of the One who forgave you. Look into the eyes of the King who wept when you pleaded for mercy. Look into the face of the Father who gave you grace when no one else gave you a chance. Find the face of God who forgives in the face of your enemy. And then, because God has forgiven you more than you’ll ever be called on to forgive in another, set your enemy—and yourself —free.