Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22

People will offend us or hurt us (we can’t stop that from happening!), but what we can do afterward is a choice to remain offended or to do the Christ-like thing: FORGIVE.

When Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness, he received an answer that would challenge him to think less about himself and more on loving the offending person. Forgive seven times? No… seventy times seven! It’s as if Christ lovingly challenged Peter: let’s see, Peter, if you can count every time a single person wrongs you and love him back.

Granted, the tiniest things can offend us if we choose them to. For example, a car wrongfully cuts us off while driving, and we are offended to high heaven. Dragon breathing, we fume: “Who does he think he is?” and we race to block the driver, giving him a dose of his own medicine.

Offense can also come in the comforts of home.  A sibling eats a chocolate bar we’ve been saving for ourselves, and we explode, demanding that the chocolate bar be replaced.

Of course, offense can come in GIANT packages. Let’s say we do something good for the Lord, and someone in authority accuses us of having the wrong motives when all we wanted to do was make God happy. Or we spend months working on a project and recognition is given to someone else, leaving us hidden and hurt.

As Christians, we tend to say, “I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you,” but inside our hearts, we are shredded. Our hurt is so tremendous that we wonder how we can forgive the person who offended us, let alone heal.

It is at this moment that forgiveness becomes a choice. We can allow ourselves to let go of the right to embrace bitterness and pain. Oh no, we have the right to pain, we argue. We’re hurt! But hey, can we let go of that right so that Christ becomes bigger than our wounds?

Should our wounds rule us? Take so much of our time and energy? This is where Jesus’ lordship comes into the arena of our decisions. We find Him confronting us– for each circumstance in our lives is meant to fashion our character into His image. We find Him saying, “Can I, Christ, be bigger than your pain?” And here we must decide: can Christ be bigger than the offense made against us? Can Christ be bigger than our desire for vindication or revenge? Can Christ be bigger than us?

If our Savior was wronged, should we expect anything less? Jesus calls us to follow His ways; to pick up our cross daily and learn obedience. This is the same Savior who said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This is the same Savior, sinless and powerful, who gave up His right to speak a defense about Himself because the route of love demanded His meekness and death.

Forgiveness is a death to our ego. It is a decision to let go of our natural inclination for justice and choose to cover an offense with love. Like Jesus, can we let go of our right to be understood?  

Jesus knows that our hearts are breakable. This is why He says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The key to overcoming trouble and the pain inflicted upon us in this world is to go to Jesus every time our hearts are wounded. We can’t heal ourselves, but Jesus can! When an offense is made against us, the only way we can OVERCOME is to be like Christ.

When the offense hurts so bad, we can ask Jesus for a divine exchange.  We can give Jesus our anger and desire for revenge, and ask Him to replace these negative emotions with mercy and forgiveness. We can give Jesus our pain and ask Him to fill us instead with peace and healing. We can ask Him for eyes to see the offending party in the same way He does; to love people the way that He does. We check ourselves, too, if Christ is putting before our eyes an aspect of our own lives that He wants to deal with. We die to our natural inclinations so that Christ in us can live!

The choice to forgive is a daily carrying of our cross. Let us remember to respond like Jesus and love like Him. Offense and hurt will always come as we live in this world, but to remain offended– that will always be a decision.

Written By:  Janina Rivera