Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Love Divine All Loves Excelling"1 (Lyrics)
Luke 17:3-4 – If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying "I repent," you must forgive them. (NIV 2011)
He was a devious, tumultuous, impetuous, mischievous little brat. He was a bit of a troublemaker, always instigating a disturbance. He was forever being scolded by someone. His quick and seemingly sincere comeback was always, "I'm sorry; please forgive me." It was good to hear someone so young not only say, "I'm sorry," but also to ask for forgiveness — wow! … at first — but when it didn't bring about change, it became a bit of an irritant. After several days of hearing it over and over, it became outright annoying. And yet … seven times seven …
He attended the teen camp for the week because it was the only thing to do. He was lonely, and went because it would take him away from the pain and shame of home, where he experienced constant physical and verbal abuse. For years, his alcoholic parents had drummed into his head that when he did something wrong he had to say, "I'm sorry." And he learned that if he also said, "Please, forgive me" in just the right tone, they would leave him alone. He learned to put on the mask of mischievousness as a coping mechanism. A strong offense became his defense.
It took a week of camp — a week of people not reacting to his negative tryings, a week of hearing that there was Someone who loved him so unconditionally that He laid down His life for him — a week of differences: different friendships that developed, different reactions to his outbursts, different treatment … different … different. No beatings, no being hollered at … Just that someone loved him.
"Jesus, I'm sorry, please forgive me. Come into my heart and make me the type of person You want me to be. Thank You," he cried.
He is now a grandfather. But for all these years, he has stayed friends with that one Person who loved him so unconditionally that He laid down His life for him. That week at camp changed his life. He can still be a bit of a tumultuous, impetuous, mischievous brat as he shares the love of Jesus with those around him.
The behaviour of other people may disappoint us, but we never know how God is working in their lives. Our continual forgiveness of their mistakes may just be what God needs to influence them for eternity. Of course, there are times when we need to confront people about their actions, and we need to pray for God's wisdom to know the difference. But God calls us who have received His continual forgiveness to pass along to others the grace and forgiveness that we ourselves have received.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, if our brother or sister sins against us and they repent, give us the grace to forgive them. And even if they sin against us seven times a day, and seven times a day they come back saying they repent, help us to forgive them, just as You have forgiven us. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.