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Is There a Limit to Forgiveness?

It seems that forgiveness is running in short supply these days. Is there a limit to the amount of forgiveness we are supposed to show?

Growing Faith
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It seems that forgiveness is running in short supply these days. Cancel culture is the order of the day. The term “cancel culture” may be new, but the concept isn’t; it’s unforgiveness.

The world doesn’t default to forgiveness. It’s not something that comes naturally to any of us. It’s easy to get on board with forgiveness when you want it pointed back at you, but there needs to be a limit, right? How far is too far when it comes to forgiving others?

Should you forgive the neighbor you know has lied to you countless times? What about your spouse who walked out on your marriage and has hurt your kids along the way? Or the parent who caused you pain from their reckless drinking in your childhood? Where is the line? What is the limit?

Should we forgive?

Sometimes we like to hold on to our hurt because it makes us feel strong and give us control over the one who hurt us. We control people through guilt and shame.

The problem with that is that bitterness and unforgiveness is fake strength. It’s weakness in disguise. When we refuse to forgive, it’s like pushing the self-destruct button. We may think it gives us strength, but it’s destroying us.

Where's the line? What's the limit?

Matthew 18:21 says, “Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

Peter is basically saying, "Yeah, but look, there’s got to be a limit on this.” There should be a line, and forgiveness should be off the table once that line has been crossed.

Even first-century Jewish tradition taught that three times was the limit of forgiveness. Peter knew the tradition, so he doubled that and threw in one extra for good measure.

Jesus gave Peter and us today an answer that blew their minds. He said in response, “seventy times seven.” And in Luke 17:4, Jesus says, “Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you should forgive.”

That translates to “there is no limit; there are no conditions on forgiveness.” Jesus also didn’t mention a limit or line based on the kind of offense done against you. As a Christian, it’s clear, all-inclusive, and non-negotiable.

What does this look like for us today?

When we forgive, we choose a love that is louder than words. Forgiveness is essential and critical for us as humans.

It’s necessary for connecting with others. Without it, we will never sustain a human relationship. There isn’t a marriage in history that has made it without forgiveness being part of that relationship. If you have a friendship with anyone that has lasted longer than a year, chances are high forgiveness was involved at some point.

Parents, your kids will need your forgiveness, and you will need theirs too.

We can’t go through this life without forgiveness. Whether you are a Christian or not or choose to forgive or not, we have all the needed forgiveness. And chances are high that we will all need it again. Even if you don’t believe in God, you will still need forgiveness. God’s forgiveness has no line.

God’s forgiveness is limitless and available to all people.

“May your kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:10-12

Some of us will have the opportunity to make our love for one another easy to see by being a conduit of forgiveness to our family in the next few weeks.

Some of us will have to forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it. Or maybe forgive someone who never asks for it, doesn’t even want it. That’s hard.

And some of the most powerful words we may ever speak are “I forgive you.”

If that’s you and you are wrestling with that, try this simple prayer that you can pray to help you when you are confronted with situations where forgiveness is hard.

God, give me the grace to forgive and the strength to let go of what she said, or what he did, or how they responded, or even give me the strength to let go of what I did.

Some of you need to let go and forgive yourself. And sometimes this is the hardest one.

Forgiveness in no way changes the past, but it can change your future.

God’s forgiveness is available for all. No one can go where his forgiveness can’t reach. Why are you hesitating to forgive yourself if God is willing to forgive you?

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