How many times should I forgive, Lord?
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:22)
Why does Jesus tell us to forgive over and over again? He tells us this so that our hearts remain soft because He knows that the result of an unforgiving heart is a hard heart. So how many times should we forgive? All the time.
Many people mistake forgiveness for weakness so I'd like to make something clear right off the bat. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean we allow people to cross lines they shouldn’t cross. For instance, it may be necessary to set boundaries and then let others know what those boundaries are. In any relationship there should be boundaries, from a parent/child relationship to a marital relationship and all those in between. It’s not always necessary to tell someone what your boundaries are but, there are times when you must. And when you do draw that line, it’s up to you to keep watch and make sure that line is not crossed. Children especially will most likely go over the line or at least try to, that’s what children do, but it’s up to the parent to hold the line. In other relationships it’s no different, especially when there is emotional or physical abuse.
When we forgive we’re also trusting God. We’re allowing God to work in the situation and we’re letting others know that we love them but that we refuse to allow unhealthy patterns to continue in our lives. And though this is good for all involved, it may cause even more friction with those we're drawing the line for. But don’t allow that friction to discourage you or wear you down to the point that you remove the boundary. No matter what anyone says about the boundary you set, stick with it. At the same time understand that it’s not easy for those you’re setting it for so pray for them. If the situation you're in is very serious, remember that Jesus tells us to "...pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
Setting boundaries may require you to see or talk to a certain individual less or separate yourself from them for a time. Forgiving someone does not give anyone a license to treat you in a way that is damaging. Notice that Jesus does not say that you must allow others to heap abuse on you. That’s because we don’t have to.