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How many times must I forgive?

In her old age my grandmother had beautiful long pure white hair stretching all the way down to the back of her knees. I often stayed with her at weekends and over the holidays and every night she would sit and comb out her hair. In my childhood memory I can still picture her now combing and gathering up the long strands and pinning her hair into a bun.

My grandparents were devoted to each other and in his last years my grandmother nursed my dying granddad and was the last person with him. At that stage he was sleeping on a bed in the living room. As she climbed the stairs to go to bed, she heard him call out to her “Annie, Annie.” Her name was his last word. After his death, my grandmother went into a slow, steady decline, withdrawing into her own world. Probably Alzheimer’s or dementia. Her last few months were spent in a nursing home. The first thing they did there was cut her beautiful long hair. She died seven years after my grandfather. Interestingly, her death certificate said she died of grief – she never got over my grandfather’s death. She was completely dedicated to him.

People have a tendency to hold onto things like memories, gifts, keepsakes, tokens of love and affection or important events in our lives or the lives of our children and family. For many of us our most important relationships, and longest lasting, are the friends we made in childhood. Some of these friendships last a lifetime. Many of our homes are filled with the “stuff” of memories.

However, we can also hold onto the negative, the dark, the bad and the hurtful, painful things that have occurred in our lives. Sins and hurts that have been done to us can be life changing and life impacting. They can be so deep that they can be buried because they are too painful to remember and deal with. Things that have been done to us are not our fault, but they can still impact who we are and how we live for the whole of our lives. Sins, ours and others, can hurt and damage for a long time.

Some sins we can remember, and we can choose to hold onto, brood over, call to mind, and refuse to allow to be healed. Today Jesus challenges us to forgive. Not always an easy thing to do considering the debt that might be owed. Jesus places this command within the context of a parable. The parable related to God the Father and the willingness of God, Our Father, to forgive the offenses committed toward Him by His children. A great debt that God is willing to forgive. While His forgiveness is not dependent on our willingness to do the same, nevertheless, the parable obviously suggests that we should be willing to forgive others because we have been forgiven ourselves. As I said, not an easy teaching.

The truth is that sin impacts lives and relationships. It impacts our relationship with God, with spouses, with children and family and friends. Sin can reach into the soul and the heart and turn them to stone, it can twist the character, it can hurt so much that our whole life is spent broken and torn apart. Not forgiving the hurt done to us is understandable but holding onto it can also impact our own happiness, growth and inner peace, which in turn impact our own lives and relationships. Sin has a long reach – and its never positive. The advice of the Son of God is: don’t hold onto it and don’t let it hold onto you.


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