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The Limits of Forgiveness

July 29, 2009

There aren’t any.

Shocking, isn’t it?  But these are the words of our Lord:

So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him. (Luke 17:3-4).

Note the steps Jesus clearly gives us here:

1. “Rebuke” the one who has sinned against you.  Now this can be very dangerous stuff if we do it out of an angry spirit and not from a desire for reconciliation and a heart of love.  We all know the difference.  But honestly communicating with another that something is amiss in your relationship with him because of something they have done cannot be swept under the rug.  Just proceed with extreme caution.

2. Watch for signs of repentance on the part of the one you’re speaking with and if he does have a change of heart/mind about his actions and seeks your forgiveness, then forgive him.

3. Remember human nature (consider your own).  Imperfection runs deep in the well of each person’s heart and it is possible that someone may repeatedly sin against you (understatement).  What then?  As in real estate, three key words:  forgive, forgive, forgive.  Only Jesus uses the number seven because in Scripture “[o]f the numbers that carry symbolic meaning in biblical usage, seven is the most important. It is used to signify completeness or totality (Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000, c1998). Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (electronic ed.) (774). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).

Seem too hard?  Let’s look at that in the next post 🙂

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