In my book What Every Pastor Needs, there is a chapter titled, "The Forgiveness Factory." (Note: would you like to read free samples of my book? You can sign up for free book excerpts here). In the chapter I quote Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV) which says:
"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."
I think the main point here is that we never stop forgiving and that is why I call our hearts a "forgiveness factory." I'd like to share how you can make your heart a forgiveness factory today.
Keep It Going
We start by keep forgiving others. We must never think that some people are not worth forgiving or that we are incapable of forgiving them. I cringe when I hear people say, "I could never forgive him for that." The day we stop forgiving others is the day our hearts begin to harden. Bitterness takes root in a heart that doesn't forgive. We have to keep forgiving not only because Jesus tells us to but also because of how it will effect us.
Keep it in Perspective
Later in Matthew 18 Jesus tells the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). In the story, a servant owed his master "ten thousand talents" or several million dollars in today's money. Imagine that you open your credit card statement this week and it says, "Minimum Payment: 5,000,000"! You couldn't pay it and that's the point. Jesus tells us that our debt to Him is insurmountable. We owe a debt of sin that only He could pay. When the servant begged for his debt to be forgiven it was but then he refused to forgive a servant who owed him several thousand dollars.
Pastor, people will hurt you. I know because I've been hurt by other people in ministry. But the hurt I've experienced cannot compare to the hurt I've caused Jesus because of my sin. We forgive others when we keep things in perspective, remembering how much Jesus has forgiven us.
Keep It Short
Finally, our heart is a forgiveness factory when we keep short accounts with others. My wife has taught me so much about forgiveness. I had always been bad at holding a grudge when people hurt me. When we got married, I would stew for days when my wife said an unkind word. Then one day she asked me, "Are you ready to forgive me?" I replied, "I'm not sure." Then I realized how petty I was being. Yes, she had hurt me with her words but I had done the same thing to her at times. We all say things we don't mean when we're tired or stressed so we need to forgive now. Ephesians 4:26-27 says,
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
"The sun going down" refers to the end of the day. Before the day is over, we need to forgive.
Is your heart a forgiveness factory today? It can be. Keep your forgiveness going, in perspective, and short and you'll be amazed at what Jesus does in your heart.