"Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (Matt 18:21-22)
"Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:11-15
Several years ago at a PAO conference I went to a workshop on forgiveness taught by Jackie Kendall. I will never forget what she said: That we have to forgive again and forgive again and forgive again, and forgive again. Basically forgiveness is a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute process. It is something we have to do over and over and over again.
That particular year I was going through a rough time and forgiveness took on a whole new meaning to me. I needed to be reminded that forgiveness is hard and it's something we must do continually to guard against bitterness, contempt, and resentment taking root in our hearts. And most importantly, as the verses above show, it is something Jesus takes very seriously.
I've heard many times from health professionals that unforgiveness can adversely affect our physical health. An article titled The Deadly Consequences of Unforgiveness states, “Unforgiveness is classified in medical books as a disease. According to Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them that way. Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues, and of those, more than half are severe, according to research by Dr. Michael Barry, a pastor and the author of the book, The Forgiveness Project.” I'm not sharing this to create fear, but to point out how seriously God takes forgiveness. He knows that unforgiveness is like poison to our bodies and our souls.
What does unforgiveness look like from a baseball life perspective? Let’s talk about the offseason, a short treasured time for baseball families that can be a bit tricky. After a long season, both myself and my husband would have expectations of what the offseason was going to look like, and unfortunately most of the time these pictures looked different. Let’s be honest, this happens during the season as well. When expectations are not met, it's easy to get bitter and resentful. If we have truly been wronged, we may never fully forget. But we must strive to forgive.
In my experience, unmet expectations can be relationship killers. After getting out of the game and looking back, I can see how much unforgiveness I was holding on to. Even today I have to tell myself to forgive again, and forgive again, and forgive again. When I give these things to the Lord, many times He exposes my heart and how I'm not being fair or seeing things clearly in the first place. What are you possibly holding onto that you need to release to the Lord and tell yourself, “I will forgive again, and again, and again…?”
Jesus equips us to do his will (2 Peter 1:3). The Bible tells us that being in God’s will and loving Him equals obeying his Word (1 John 2:3, 3:21-24, 5:2-3). Clearly according to Matthew 6 & 18, forgiving others is not an option. But if we ask for His help and strength, He will give it to us. (John 14:12-14).
Prayer: Lord, forgiveness is hard. Please give us the strength we need to forgive, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Help us to forgive again and again and again.
Suggested Reading: Matthew 18:21-35