This weekend, Luke Hinson and I will be leading a retreat for our Senior Adult and SingleFocus groups on the topic of God’s Forgiveness: Past, Present, and Forever. When Jesus threw Peter (and the church) the keys to the kingdom of heaven, one of the keys on the ring was forgiveness. Forgiveness is a key that unlocks the doors of people’s hearts. If you don’t believe me, just walk through the pages of scripture with this theme in mind. You’ll find many doors locked tightly by years of resentment, fear, and abuse. Joseph and his brothers learn to forgive each other in Genesis. Fearful disciples struggle with the scars from Jesus’ death. You and I are still learning to love our enemies.
The problem with the forgiveness key is that it’s not merely a one-time experience. When Peter asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive?”, he was hoping there might be an end point. Jesus knew that forgiving someone “70×7” was just the beginning of the process. Forgiveness is an ongoing discipline of reminding ourselves what Christ has done in the past for us and for the offender. It means surrendering the one who wronged us to the Lord and wishing them well for the future. We will likely never forget what has happened to us, but by God’s grace, we will most assuredly remember the person and the events much differently in the future.
Most of the time forgiveness begins by letting go of our need to be in charge of events beyond our control. Caroline Lewis writes, “Forgiveness means letting go of the hope that the past is somehow going to change.” Jesus has already redeemed the past. He offers us a new future. Will we trust him to walk with us through the door? I’ll be back Sunday morning to gather around the table with you, to conclude the series on Philippians, and to share the Lord’s Supper together. We will remember and celebrate Christ’s forgiveness that he offers all of us.