Forgiveness Is a Process

by Jan Silvious

Sometimes forgiveness is a tedious chore. It requires constant choice to give it no matter what.

I wonder if you are like I am. Some days, I feel very benevolent and forgiving. Without questions, I choose to forgive whoever has offended me. On other days, forgiveness is a tedious process that I would rather not go through. When I have forgiven and forgiven and forgiven, it makes me tired to keep on forgiving.

I think my friend the Apostle Peter must have felt the same way when he

confidently asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matt. 18:21). You know Jesus answered: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22).

 It’s easy to apply this principle when a person asks for forgiveness, but what about the person who refuses to admit he has done anything wrong and defies your forgiveness?

Corrie ten Boom and her family had hidden Jews from the Nazis during World War II. But when two of her fellow citizens tipped off the German police, she and her whole family were arrested and sent to concentration camps, where several of them died. But there is more to Corrie’s story:

After the war was over, the two Dutchmen who had betrayed her family were taken into custody and put on trial. That they were getting what they deserved would have been the natural response, but not so. Corrie said, “My sister Nollie...heard of the trial of these two men who told the Gestapo about us, and she wrote a letter to both of them. She told them that through their betrayal they had caused the death of our father, our brother and his son, and our sister. She said we had suffered much, although both of us had come out of prison alive. She told them that we had forgiven them and that we could do this because of Jesus, who is in our hearts.”

Both men responded. One wrote: “I have received Jesus as my Savior. When He can give such ability to forgive to people like Corrie ten Boom and her sister, then there is hope for me. I brought my sins to Him.” The other letter gave an opposite viewpoint: “I know what I have done to your family, that I have caused the death of several of you who have saved Jews, and above that I have helped to kill many hundreds of Jewish people. The only thing I regret is that I have not been able to kill more of your kind.”*

Corrie ten Boom still forgave, even after her betrayer refused to acknowledge his sin. She knew that the only true freedom came when she forgave and forgave and forgave, no matter how many times the face of that man appeared before her mind’s eye. She had to make the choice to forgive, no matter how many times were required.

Seventy times seven means we are to forgive an infinite number of times. We are to forgive in spite of the severity of the wrongdoing. Jesus forgave those who crucified Him even while He was still on the cross.

 From The 5-Minute Devotional, Zondervan, c. 1991 by Jan Silvious.

*Ruth Tucker, Sacred Stories, Zondervan, 1989.