I think one of the hardest things as a Christians is forgiveness. There’s a difference between telling someone that you forgive them, and actually letting it go in your heart. And it’s easy for something little, like maybe someone dropped a high school insult against you behind your back out of frustration, or maybe they forgot to do something they were supposed to do. But when it’s something bigger, where someone really hurt you, forgiveness takes a lot more effort. However, very rarely do we find it harder to forgive then when it was us who made the mistake.
In Matthew 18: 21-22, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus responds with, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!” Jesus isn’t telling us that we only have to forgive someone literally seventy-seven times here. In the Bible, seven is the number that symbolizes fullness, completion or perfection. So when Jesus tells Peter that we need to forgive not just seven times but seventy-seven times, He tells Peter to forgive others so completely that there is nothing left to forgive. And that’s hard enough to imitate concerning the offenses others have against us. But this teaching on forgiveness doesn’t just apply to forgiving others.
When Christ died for us on the cross, it only took one drop of His most precious blood to save all sinners throughout all of time. But He didn’t stop there. He shed every last drop for all of us, and for only us. Christ would go through all the torment and suffering that He endured all over again just to save YOUR soul, for no other reason than He loves you despite knowing everything you have done, and everything you are going to do. And when we refuse to forgive, we waste His precious blood. And this applies to forgiving ourselves too.
When we make a mistake and hold it against ourselves, we make the choice to let our sins be bigger than His mercy. And while it might not seem like that’s pride talking, pride is exactly where it comes from. We set standards for ourselves, and when we fail to meet them, pride tells us that one mistake is so big and damaging that there is nothing God can do to override it. Pride tells us we don’t deserve forgiveness, or even worse that we aren’t worth God’s love. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In order to grow, we need to let go of our past mistakes and forgive ourselves. And I know exactly how hard that can be. When you have moments in your past that you let define who you are, a bully, a cheater, a liar, a coward… whatever name you have given yourself because of something you have done. Let. It. Go. You are not your sins. You are not your mistakes. You are a child of God. And He has already forgiven you. All that’s left to do is to accept the mercy He’s been trying to give you all along. You are human, and therefore you are fallen. It’s only through His mercy that you can be healed. But refusing to forgive yourself blocks that mercy out. So, do not let your sins be greater than God’s mercy, and let your sins go.
It’s so easy to get caught up in believing that we’ll never be better than the person who made that mistake, who didn’t do that one thing right. But I can tell you from experience that once you let that mindset go, change is possible. Growth will happen. We just need to get out of God’s way and let him do the work. Remember that we are called to forgive everyone to absolute completion, and that includes ourselves. So in the next few weeks, I challenge you to try to forgive yourself for one thing. Just one. Tell yourself every day that you are not defined by that mistake. Tell yourself that you deserve to be loved by God and you can love yourself despite your mistakes. Tell yourself that you are not the same person who made those choices. Pretty soon, you’ll start to find yourself believing it bit by bit. And after a while, you’ll find that you can forgive yourself for those things and move forward.