By Ronnie McBrayer
Four-hundred and ninety times. That was Jesus’ answer to the question, “How many times should I forgive someone who has offended me.” I don’t think Jesus was being literal; how I wish he were! Then there would at least be a boundary. Jesus was saying, however, “Stop keeping score. There is no limit to how many times you grant forgiveness to others.” This sounds like lunacy. Why would Jesus say such a thing?
Here is an answer: When we forgive others without limit, we are treating others as God treats the world. God loves and forgives without restraint or limitation. So when Jesus teaches us to forgive without limit, he is calling us to bear the loving image of God in the world. We forgive because that’s what God does.
I don’t think profound, God-like forgiveness is something we humans can accomplish within our own power. No, if forgiveness flows out of us to others, it is because God is doing it and not us ourselves. Consequently, forgiveness is not so much something we do, as it is something we discover. It is the discovery of God’s inexhaustible, inconceivable, insuppressible grace—for ourselves and for those who have hurt us.
There is a television show on the A&E Network called “Storage Wars.” Storage units that have been abandoned or defaulted upon by the renters are opened, and bidders show up to bid for the contents of the unit. A man bought the contents of one storage unit for $1,100. Inside the unit were nearly 2,000 gold and silver Spanish coins worth more than $500,000.
Forgiveness works like that; we begin sorting through the baggage and the storage units of our life. We start unpacking all our pain, and as we rummage sort, shuffle, and restack the cardboard and Rubbermaid boxes of our past hurts, lo and behold, we stumble across a treasure.
There it is, and it has been there all along, right in the midst of all our rubbish—the unexpected discovery of God’s unlimited grace. He really loves us. He loves us so much, that his love is enough to forgive those who have hurt us. His forgiveness is so invaluable that no matter what life has cost us, it will pay the price, and then some. It is this discovery of forgiveness that can change us, and can do the same for those who have hurt us.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.