Jesus said, “I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22). This was his reply to Peter when he asked how many times should one forgive a sister or brother. What a seemingly inexhaustible number! It certainly is a tall order, from even more, an insurmountable God.
In Isaiah 55:9, God speaks of Himself: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In plain terms, God is not about to let you outdo Him. It is even safer to say that the forgiving Blood of Jesus is not quenched after the 490th offense.
So why is it so hard for people to forgive themselves? Is it a matter of:
~ a cruel word spoken into a heart that has long-ceased to beat, and that can not be retracted
~ your lot in life and its missed opportunities, because you dared not even try
~ the aftermath of broken hearts, when you failed to say goodbye
~ the omitted, “I love you” to the one who got away
Do you identify with any of the above? Perhaps, yours is a litany that is much longer and much harsher. It is said that we are our own worst critics. Maybe your list includes crimes which can barely be uttered above a whisper.
There is a remedy. A balm of Gilead. A sweet release. Who can qualify? The contrite heart. The sincere soul. The broken spirit. This is what God longs for! It is immeasurably more valuable than any offering (Psalm 51:16, 17). Yet for the insincere and the unrepentant, the message is clear: “Nobody’s getting by with anything, believe me” (Hebrews 10:31, MSG).
Jesus also said that He came to set the captives free in Luke 4. This is usually viewed in the light of the oppressed escaping the oppressor. However, by withholding forgiveness, one can be a self-held hostage. Do you know medical science has linked this as a root cause of addictions and sudden, unexplained illness? “Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Every time people think of their transgressor, their body responds. Decreasing your unforgiveness cuts down on your health risk. Now, if you can forgive, that can actually strengthen your immune system” says Everett Worthington, PhD. See www.releasenow.org/theresearch.
More at risk is your entire being, because your body, soul and spirit are intricately connected. “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 1:2). More than a wish, Gods wills for you to know complete forgiveness. In fact, He promises it! “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). The invitation has been extended, make the exchange:
I lay at the foot of the ever-flowing fount
which stems from Emmanuel's vein.
Unworthy to receive, but a prime candidate
to be washed from sin's dark stain.
Oh, so great a privilege. What can be given in exchange?
Money? Devotion, wealth, health, or fame?
His desire? The sacrifice of forgiveness.
Too costly for some,
but this is why I come.