The skies are gray today. Snow flurries blur the landscape outside the window. Temperatures hover in the mid-teens. The cold creeps through the soles of my shoes and my wool socks—the price I pay for working at my desk, which sits on the floor above our house’s crawl space.
What if I told you unanswered prayer can be a sign of God’s favor? You might argue that since biblical days many have taught the opposite: if you’re still sick or God has closed your womb, then you’ve fallen from grace.
What if I told you the Bible shows the reverse can be true?
In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, one line spoken by Elizabeth, after she became pregnant, speaks volumes, “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people’” (Luke 1:25 NIV).
The Jews believed Elizabeth’s barrenness represented God’s punishment for some hidden wrong. For decades, Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron and a priest’s wife, felt disgraced among her people.
From our perspective, we know that wasn’t the case. Their unanswered prayer wasn’t because of God’s displeasure. It was a sign of His special favor.
The Bible says that Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7 NIV).
In their culture, those two verses didn’t fit together. If you were righteous in God’s sight, you weren’t barren. But Elizabeth was righteous—and childless.
What people saw as a disgrace, in reality, represented God’s special favor. God had not overlooked Elizabeth. He had chosen her for a special honor. He wanted her to raise the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah!
When the angel told Zechariah that God had answered his prayer, I imagine Zechariah scratched his head. What prayer? Since they were both very old, I’m sure they hadn’t prayed for a child in ages! Listen to the angel’s words:
“But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17 NIV).
Wow! If God had appeared to Elizabeth when she was young and contrasted her plan with His, which one do you think she would have chosen? Would she have chosen to fulfill her friends and family’s expectations by having an ordinary child at the expected age? Or would she have chosen to be a part of the miracle of Christmas? Would she have chosen to be the mother of John the Baptist whom Jesus described: “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV)?
Perhaps God has not answered your prayer the way you wanted. From the perspective of time, we can see God’s plan for Elizabeth was better than her own. Will you trust Him with your desires too?
When we walk with God and our circumstances indicate God has turned a deaf ear to our prayers, let’s remember Elizabeth. God’s answer to Elizabeth’s prayer is one more reason to trust Him with unanswered prayer.
Amy Bryant | December 23, 2018
Christmas Eve is almost here. It’s a time to be thankful for the most needed, most costly, most sought after (whether we realize it or not), and most precious gift…. His name is Jesus.
I’m sitting here by my lit tree gazing at my decorated mantle with a warm fire going. Cozy sounding isn’t it? From my chair, when I look to the right I’m eye level with one of my favorite ornaments. It’s a handmade one I’ve had for 18 years, but represents 23 years of friendship with one of my oldest and dearest friends Audrey. (Oh the stories she could tell!) Picture a round, shiny, red ball with sparkly beads clustered all around the top. On the side in silver paint pen she wrote Luke 2:19 (But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.) The gift tag is still on it with the message, “it is my greatest prayer that you ponder who Jesus is.” What a great prayer and challenge to me. Audrey is younger, but has encouraged, taught, and challenged me from day one. (You never know who God will use to mentor you in life!)
Sometimes the holidays can challenge even the strongest of hearts—awkward family situations, aching loneliness seems to intensify in a season like this, or the last month of the year is such a busy whirlwind we can’t remember what we did yesterday much less slow down to ponder Jesus. Why do you think that is? Why in a season where we should celebrate Him most, do we slow down to ponder and treasure Him the least? I think it’s because the enemy knows Jesus is the only answer to each one of our fears, longings, or heartaches—so of course, he strives to busy and distract us from the true Prince of Peace.
There have been times in my life that were so dark and my heart was so heavy, that honestly, I had no energy for bible study or a heart receptive to a sermon. In those seasons, I’ve found that the only thing I can do is ponder Jesus…His nature: the way He lived, the way He loved with action, the way He spoke truth in love, the way He comforted the hurting, the way He challenged the hard of heart, the way He forgave, the way He healed the sick, the way He treated the “least of these”, the way He trusted His Father and kept the covenant of God. It’s hard to ponder all that Jesus did and not taste a little hope. (Taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalms 34:8)
So today and this entire season my objective is simple…I’m going to ponder Jesus. What accounts from scripture about Him come to mind? What is one (or some) of my favorite things about Him? What would He say to me if we sat down for a cup of coffee and how would He say it? Whatever the answer to these questions are for you don’t keep them to yourself!
And just like every child around the world that can’t stop thinking about that one gift on their Christmas list with great anticipation…may we never stop pondering and treasuring our Gift. His name is Jesus.
By Kolleen Lucariello | December 22, 2018
“I’m considering making a change to our Christmas pajama tradition.” As the words tumbled out of my mouth, the slight shake of her head informed me of her thoughts before she uttered, “Mom, don’t mess with our family traditions.” As one who delights in tradition—I’d love nothing more than to leave it alone—however, as comfortable as I may be with our family traditions, there are going to be moments when they must be messed with.
Pat and I found it necessary to mess with tradition the year his work schedule forced us to remain home for Christmas. While Pat and I allowed our thoughts to dwell on what we knew we were missing with extended family in our hometown, our kids were thrilled to be home. They didn’t miss our annual dash from house-to-house. After a much-needed attitude adjustment, Pat and I realized that joy could be found in creating new traditions if we refused to get crabby when old ones were messed with.
After years of driving, we decided it was time to spend our Christmas’ with the kids in our home. This change made it possible for us to attend the Christmas Eve services at our church. After service, we’d follow friends to their home for a night of snacks, games, and a comical Christmas letter from Santa, penned by our oldest son, to their youngest daughter. When we arrived home, Christmas pajamas were waiting under the tree for us from a sneaky elf that somehow managed to slip away from the shop without too much grief from the other elves. We’d shuffle the kids off to bed, fill stockings, and place gifts under the tree in preparation for Christmas morning, which would arrive in just a few hours. Some of our kids’ favorite memories of Christmas came because we allowed tradition to get messed with.
It can be easy to cozy up to tradition. We found ourselves faced with more transitions as our children married, grandchildren were added, and the schedules of many needed to be considered just to get the family together. Whew! It wasn’t easy, and I’ve had a few, I-don’t-like-messing-with-tradition moments. However, in the midst of my “moment,” I’ve also discovered that tradition without flexibility becomes nothing more than stringent regulations of expectations. This creates tension, and frustration during what should be a season of hope, joy, and peace. Who wants that? “Not I,” says Mother Hen.
Back in the day, the religious leaders were challenged by Jesus’ seeming lack of respect for tradition. At one point asking Him, “Why do your disciples ignore the traditions of our elders?” Jesus’ response gives me a reason to pause and check my own heart. “Why do you ignore the commandment of God because of your tradition” (Matthew 15:1-3)? Ouch. The motto of, we’ve always done it this way, can push back hard against any offender trying to mess with tradition. If tradition causes me to ignore the commandment to love others, well, it might be time to reconsider the meaning of Christmas. When that happens, I become intentional about finding my way to the grace place. Here I can remind myself we are not celebrating tradition on Christmas Day; we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.
Perhaps you find yourself struggling during a season of transition and change. I pray you are able to offer grace, and flexibility, as you weave your way through every single moment. Don’t forget the angel’s announcement was, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10). Don’t lose your joy for the sake of tradition. Merry Christmas.
By Denise Loock | December 21, 2019
“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7
The creak of the door signaled Zechariah’s arrival. He’d been serving at the temple for two weeks. But he hadn’t called out a greeting. Was something wrong? Elizabeth hurried to welcome her husband.
“So glad you’re home,” she said. He smiled and opened his arms to embrace her. His grip seemed stronger, his kiss longer than usual.
As she stepped back, Zechariah pulled a small scroll from the sash of his tunic and handed it to her. Her heart pounded as she read the message. An angel had appeared to Zechariah in the temple … Elizabeth was going to have a child.
“What?” she cried. “But how…?”
Tears glistened as his grin broadened. He pointed heavenward, then lowered his hand, and tapped the scroll.
She read more—his inability to speak, the name to give their … son. She lifted her head and met his gaze. “Oh, Zechariah, after all these years … a son!”
She spoke the name, then its meaning: “John. Jehovah is gracious.”
Oh, yes, God had been gracious. A son. The gift they’d wanted so long.
Truly, Jehovah was a God of wonders.
Five months passed. Excitement built as the baby grew inside her. Some days Elizabeth couldn’t stop crying; on others, she couldn’t stop laughing. Soon after she first felt John move, she received word that her cousin, Mary of Nazareth, was coming for a visit. “News, unbelievable news to share,” the message said.
Elizabeth rubbed her belly. And I have news for you, dear cousin.
A few days later, Elizabeth was mending one of Zechariah’s linen ephods when a voice called out, “Elizabeth, where are you?”
When she stood, John jumped so forcefully that Elizabeth almost fell. Her breathing leveled just as Mary entered the room.
The cousins embraced. Pulling back, Elizabeth studied Mary’s radiant face.
In a flash, God revealed the miraculous news to Elizabeth. Mary’s pregnancy. The identity of the baby she carried. “God has blessed you above all women, Elizabeth said. “You will give birth to the Messiah we’ve awaited so long!”
The story of the angel Gabriel’s visit tumbled from Mary in a rush of words and gestures as the cousins walked to the table, pulled out the chairs, and sat.
Elizabeth listened first with awe, then with understanding. God hadn’t been punishing her or Zechariah through her barrenness. He’d been waiting for the opportune time to give them a son, the one who’d prepare the way for the Messiah. Mary had to be born, grow up, become engaged to Joseph.
At the perfect moment, God’s eternal plan intersected with their lives. How could He bless her in such a miraculous way after all the harsh words she’d unloaded on Him over the years? What kind of God is that patient, that gracious? Only Jehovah.
Elizabeth placed her hand on Mary’s. She wanted to pass on to Mary the gift of affirmation, purpose, and peace God had given her. They gazed at each other for a minute, maybe two—lost in the holy wonder of God’s gifts.
Tightening her grip on Mary’s hand, Elizabeth said, “God will surely bless you for believing what He has promised!”
“I’m overwhelmed by His goodness, stunned by His grace.” Mary wiped a tear from her cheek. “Praise His holy name.”
As Mary and Elizabeth relished God’s gracious gifts, may we also share the gift of His goodness with others this Christmas season. God loves us. He sent His son to redeem us. He can do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. His timing is perfect.
Celebrate His goodness.
Next Step: Read Luke 1:5–56. In what ways were Mary and Elizabeth a gift to each other? How can you follow their example this week?
As a little girl growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, I can remember my family all dressed up and going to our Christmas service with beautiful music and candles lit all throughout the church. My favorite part of the evening was singing along as loud as we could with the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Even though it may have only been 200 people, to my little-girl ears, it sounded like thousands of loud voices singing and praising God. I wonder, is that what the angels of Christmas sounded like?
My best memories at every Christmas Eve service was of my mother singing the last solo of the evening before the entire group stood to sing all the traditional Christmas hymns, loud and strong. She had such a beautiful, sweet soprano voice and sounded like an angel.
Do you have any family traditions you enjoy with your children on Christmas morning? One of our family traditions is reading The Christmas Story. Because of my singing background, I smile with the verses about the angels appearing to the shepherds and loudly singing to proclaim the good news of the baby born in a manger. Luke writes:
Luke 2: 8-16 (VOICE)
“Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!
Messenger: Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.
At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousands of other messengers—a vast heavenly choir. They praise God.
Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!
And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!
As soon as the heavenly messengers disappeared into heaven, the shepherds were buzzing with conversation.
Shepherds: Let’s rush down to Bethlehem right now! Let’s see what’s happening! Let’s experience what the Lord has told us about!
So they ran into town, and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough. After they saw the baby, they spread the story of what they had experienced and what had been said to them about this child. Everyone who heard their story couldn’t stop thinking about its meaning.
Have you ever wondered what the shepherds must have experienced that special Christmas night? What was it like to hear the angels sing that Christmas night?
I picture this scene as if the people involved were like the actors of a Broadway musical’s opening night, just waiting with anticipation and excitement in the wings of the stage for their cue to enter. With boldness, the first angel speaks the cue found in Luke 2:12: “You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.”
Can’t you just see it? The company of angels finally hears their cue and designated time to join in the celebration and shout out the good news of the Savior arriving on Earth.
What a blessing to be able to bring the good news of a Savior born for all people! In the hymn “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” the lyric shares the entire purpose of the angels’ message:
Hark, the heard Angels sing, glory to the Newborn King, peace on earth and mercy mild,
GOD AND SINNERS RECONCILED!
It’s amazing to me that, out of all the ways God could have been announced and chosen to come, He chose to reveal the announcement to the common shepherds and, most importantly, to arrive as a helpless baby.
After the angels disappeared, the Scripture says the shepherds rushed into town to find the newborn baby, the Savior of the World. Once they saw the baby Jesus, they shared the story of wonder and the newborn Savior with everyone they could.
The angels were the messengers who passed the good news on to the shepherds, and they, in turn, passed the message on to the people in their community. Isn’t it so true: when you have the good news of Jesus, you’ve just got to share the joy and excitement of salvation.
Can God count on you to share the good news of Christ this Christmas with family, friends, and coworkers?
You are such a loving God, to come to the Earth for me as a baby. I long to be a messenger of the good news to others, but so often, I fall short of time and courage. Right now, I’m asking for you to use me in any way you desire this Christmas season to shine the light of your love to others. I long to be a positive witness for Your Glory. Thank you for sending the angels to the lowly and poor shepherds to remind me that, no matter who we are, You care and reach out to everyone who is willing and available. We give You alone all the glory!
By Nicole Newson | November 15, 2018
I just want some peace and quiet. I’ve been known to say this phrase frequently but it feels like an unrealistic request at times especially with small children at home. When I think about what peace and quiet would look like for me I think I just really want to be left alone just for a little bit (away from all responsibilities and people) so I can just think or maybe not even think at all.
I was reading about Solomon the other day and came across this passage in the Bible.
Behold, a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet in Israel in his days. 1 Chronicles 22:9.
I randomly thought instantly, I desperately need some Solomon time in my life. Although Solomon had his share of messy drama in his full life story, I would love to be considered a “man” (woman) of rest! It’s really only quiet in my home before or after bedtime and when the kids are at school… Yes, that’s pretty much it and I understand that it’s the season I am in with kids at home.
However if I’m completely honest with myself, it’s not always the kids that steal from my peace and quiet. I’m a constant participant in the noise around me. You know TV, music, meetings, social media, talking, texting, and the list goes on. None of which are bad things, but when nothing gets done in decent proportions it can most definitely disrupt the peace of your home, heart, and/or your mind.
Yes, I said it more times than not, I AM the cause of disruption to the peace and quiet I desperately desire. I don’t know if it is mom guilt, spouse guilt, friend guilt, or even work guilt that causes me to feel like I always have to be doing something. I’ve caught myself even eating standing up because I’m a master multitasker, and surely in between bites of food I can do one daughter’s hair for school and give my nephew a spelling quiz.
If you are anything like me, you can understand the desire to just quiet your mind. Maybe you have a new job, a promotion with more responsibilities, or just got married. Maybe you moved to a new city and are in the midst of getting situated. Maybe you have a newborn at home and want some much-needed sleep. Maybe you are in school and have a lot on your plate. I’m guessing at any stage in life we all could use some time of peace and quiet.
Personally, my best ideas, feelings of gratitude and closeness to God come to me when I’m quiet. When I make time to be alone. Right now as I write this I’m sitting under a pavilion outside by myself at a church across the street from my kids’ school. I’m probably trespassing but it looked so serene and quiet. I’m surrounded by grass, benches, and wooden porch swings. For what I desire right now sure beats my normal sitting spot in Starbucks hearing people complain about extra whip or caramel in their drinks. 😉
I know that I can hear best from God when the noise around me is quieted and I can give Him my full attention. This alone time is hard to come by for me, but just know that even when things don’t feel very peaceful in your lives that God ultimately wants to be that peace for us. He didn’t promise that our lives would be easy or calm, because peace is not the absence of trouble, but He did promise that the peace He gives the world cannot give. He can give us peace of mind and heart.
Recently our friend Bob, an Assistant District Attorney, told us about a woman who sat before him after she had been caught driving without her license. I was surprised to learn there are many, as in many people, who are caught doing this on a regular basis. As a rule-following-stay-clear-from-trouble gal, I would not be able to handle the stress of knowing I was breaking the law. But apparently, some manage just fine.
Until they are caught. When that happens, they approach the Assistant DA’s office hoping for leniency, as was the case of this twenty-something-year-old woman. Bob said he gives the same instruction to every person who finds themselves in this situation; however, most disregard his offer, and hope they don’t get caught again.
To receive help with her ticket she would need to complete three steps. When she had finished every step on the list, she needed proof to show him she’d done all that he’d asked. These were his instructions:
- Get her permit,
- Take her three-hour safety course,
- Pass her drivers test.
Bob told us it’s rare for anyone to complete the checklist. So when she walked out the door, he doubted she would return. But, if she chose to continue driving without her license, and was caught again she would face the possibility of fines for her present violations—with the addition of new ones. She also could lose the suspension of her driving privileges in the State of New York altogether.
However, one day she did return. When he asked her, “have you been here before?” She replied, “yes,” and handed him the proof she’d done everything he’d asked her to do. After looking through the documents, which confirmed she had completed the list, he asked her, “How do you feel after doing this?” With a huge smile on her face, she replied, “AWESOME!!!”
She no longer needed to fear every time she got behind the wheel of a car and drove illegally. Worry did not need to consume her each time she passed a police car. (Unless of course, she was speeding!) She’d been driving for years without a license, and now she held in her possession the proof needed for her legal right to drive.
Imagine the freedom she felt as the weight of lawlessness was lifted from her.
There was no doubt she was guilty of breaking the law, and there’s no doubt we are guilty of breaking God’s law. Yet, she experienced freedom with every check mark because Bob provided her with a course of action. Likewise, God has provided all of mankind The Way to be released from the guilt of sin.
There’s no way around it—the Bible says we all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 2:23). There is a penalty that must be paid for sin. That’s where Jesus stepped in; He paid the penalty and those who accept what Jesus did on the cross have been released from its bondage. “Yet through his powerful declaration of acquittal, God freely gives away his righteousness. His gift of love and favor now cascades over us, all because Jesus, the Anointed One, has liberated us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin!” (Romans 3:24, TPT).
Freedom is found when we “…repent [change your inner self–your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God–seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day]” (Acts 3:19 AMP)
In this season of Thanksgiving, allow God to change your identity—one letter at a time—as you offer gratitude to Jesus for your salvation. He’s all the proof you need.
Visit Kolleen’s website for more inspiration and encouragement: http://www.speakkolleen.com/
Kolleen is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. available on Amazon.com
By Denise Loock | November 7, 2018
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24
The prayer seemed reckless, irresponsible, even presumptuous. And yet it reflected the servant’s absolute dependence on God: “O Lord, God of my master Abraham … when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,” and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac” (Genesis 24:12–14).
In obedience to Abraham, the unnamed servant had traveled 500 miles to find a wife for Isaac. As evening approached, he stood near the well at Haran. Both he and the ten camels loaded with supplies needed water.
The town well was a logical place to find out where Abraham’s relatives lived. Members of every household in the area came to the well to get water. Knowing that many would arrive, the servant asked God for a specific sign: when he asked a girl for a drink, she’d offer to provide water for the camels also.
Giving a stranger a drink was common courtesy, but satisfying the thirst of ten camels would be like serving water to a thousand strangers. A camel can drink 25–40 gallons of water. In other words, the servant’s prayer request was audacious—“ marked by spirited fearless daring.”[i]
But God answered the servant’s request and gave Rebekah the perseverance to draw water for the camels “until they [had] finished drinking” (Genesis 24:19). She then invited him to spend the night at her family’s home (v. 24). After her family learned what had occurred, both her father, Bethuel, and older brother Laban agreed that “this is from the Lord” (v. 50).
The servant’s prayer illustrates the kind of mountain-moving faith Jesus talked about in Mark 11:23–24: “If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” That’s a daring prayer!
But where would most of our prayers fall on the cautious-audacious scale? Mine would register far too near the cautious side. And that’s convicting. You and I worship the same Almighty God that Abraham and his servant worshiped, but do our prayers reflect our confidence in our heavenly Father’s unlimited power?
God doesn’t always answer our prayers as quickly or as miraculously as he answered the servant’s. But prayers that come from humble, dependent hearts please and honor him. He may not answer our prayers the way we think he should; however, he has promised to bless those who put their trust in him. Psalm 37:5 assures us, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”
Do you trust him enough to pray an audacious prayer?
Read Genesis 24. In addition to his prayer, how else did the servant demonstrate faith? How did Abraham and Isaac, as well as Rebekah and her family, demonstrate faith?
[i] “Audacious,” Merriam-Webster, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/audacious.
By Nicole Newson | November 1, 2018
Why is the act of forgiveness so testing? Has it been easier for you at times to ask for forgiveness, rather than shell it our generously? …Guilty here! Forgiveness is not always as easy as it sounds.
As a kid, I had some tough experiences, one of which included being sexually abused for over six years. Although I don’t have any ill wishes for the man who abused me, I don’t know that I’ve ever fully had this feeling of forgiveness towards him.
What happened to me doesn’t affect my life anywhere near what it used to. I’m not bitter and I barely think about it unless I’m being transparent with others and it can possibly help someone out, yet I wonder what would forgiveness look like for me in this situation?
I have a sibling who doesn’t talk to the majority of our family anymore. As much as his behavior makes him super hard to be around, I really do miss him. I’ve put up a wall to protect me and my family from the hurt he causes when we put our guards down. What would forgiveness look like for me in this situation?
There is a very interesting parable in the Bible about an unforgiving slave in Matthew 18:21-34. At the start, Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “ Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus responds, “I tell you not as many as seven, but seventy times seven.” OUCH!! Clearly, I have not forgiven my brother nor anyone else seventy times seven as of yet!
So what exactly is forgiveness and what is It not? When you forgive you consciously release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, does not mean that you forget, condone, or excuse those offenses.
My four year old will occasionally do something to her sibling that she knows is mean or unfair and before I can get the words out of my mouth to scold her behavior she will say quickly, “Sorry, sorry, sorry, I’m sorry!” Of course, it usually doesn’t sound very genuine, more of an “I don’t want to get in trouble,” sort of apology.
Even if someone gives you some half sorry apology or even no apology at all, we must realize that we don’t forgive for the other person. We forgive because as Christians it is what God commands that we do. When we don’t forgive we carry a burden that is unnecessary to carry. God who forgives us unconditionally AND constantly if we are honest with ourselves.
The above parable continues with a slave who owed his master money (6,000 denarii) but had no way to pay it. The master was about to take all that he had to pay for the debt, which included his whole family, but after the slave pleaded he had compassion for him. The master released him from his whole debt. Following being forgiven of his loan, this slave proceeds to choke out another slave who owed him just 100 denarii that couldn’t pay him AND had him thrown in jail. In the end, the first slave’s Master got wind of what had transpired, had him thrown in jail and tortured until he could pay his original money back.
As silly as that slave sounds, it is a great reminder to not attempt to hold people to a higher standard than we would hold ourselves. What would the world look like today if we forgave nearly as much as we needed to be forgiven?