Forgive How Many Times?

forgivenessMatthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.’”

No matter how long we live on the earth or how much we go through, we will never reach a quota on forgiveness.  I recently read the inspiring story of Abbot Iscu, sentenced to prison and tortured in 1951 in what was then Communist Romania for preaching Christ. One lonely night a new inmate was placed in the adjoining cell block. Providentially, he had been the one who as a faithful Communist officer had tortured the abbot.  Now a prisoner himself by the system he had defended, he lay awake….

It wasn’t long before the former atheist begged those around him for prayer. And how did the abbot respond to this desperate man’s pleas? Without hesitation, he laid his hand on his former torturer’s head and spoke these words:

“You were young and did not know what you were doing.

I forgive you and love you as do all the other Christians you mistreated.  And if we sinners who have been saved by Jesus can love like this, how much more is He himself ready to erase all the evil you have done, to cleanse you fully.  Only repent.”

And so, a new child of God was born that night in the cold dank cell. The two men embraced after the prayers. Ironically, both died that Christmas Eve.

Abbot Iscu was prepared for that moment. This great servant of Christ had invested in forgiveness all his life. He could face what must have been the ultimate test of love with unbounded grace.

May I encourage you today to cultivate forgiveness? Whether a big offense or small one, I believe the grace of God will help us do what does not come naturally. A wise man once said, what you do not forgive, you are doomed to live. That alone should motivate us…even seventy-seven times!


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