“If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” – Jesus (Luke 17:3)
These can be hard words to hear. But what makes them even harder is that Jesus continues, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Lk. 17:4). Wow! I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to respond by saying, “Really, Jesus? Are you sure? Because that person really hurt me.” Sometimes I forget that Jesus kind of knew what He was talking about. After all, He was abandoned by all of His followers (except a few women, one being His mother), betrayed by one of his closest friends, put to death by the very people He came to love, and was denied by His best friend as He was being tortured and was dying. This causes me to think that Jesus may have really understood what pain is. Sometimes we try to let Him off the hook because He is God, but this is to deny Him as the Son of Man, a whole human, with full human feelings and emotions. And if He was (and is) not fully human, then He could not do that which was necessary to save us, so we would still be left to sin and death. So to sum up everything, Jesus was human, suffered intense emotional pain from other people, and still calls us to forgiveness.
As I look at these two verses though, I have to ask, what if the person who offends me does not repent? What are we to do then? In the past year, I have suffered from two significant relationships in my life that have hurt me considerably. And neither of them really repented. Maybe they didn’t because I did not “rebuke” them, or did not do it correctly. But now, it’s too late to try to make it right in that way. The relationships we once had, are now virtually over. One of these people I may never even see again. Yet even though the relationship is over, I am still left in brokenness and pain. So what am I to do?
After Jesus presented this message to the disciples, they responded by saying to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (17:5). Jesus’ answer astounds me. He doesn’t tell them to go pray, read the Bible, or any other churchy kind of answers; He simply tells them to be obedient. “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” (17:10).
When we are left hurt and broken by people who were supposed to love and care for us, I think we are always called to forgive them- no matter how much or how often they hurt us, and even if they never repent. But I think that Jesus is also telling us that forgiveness may look very different from what we would originally expect. Forgiveness is not a one time thing. We do not often forgive someone in one sitting, then go on fine and splendidly. Instead, forgiveness is a process that comes as we do the work of God that He has commanded us to do. Forgiveness comes as we become that humbled servant who is not after a profit or any special treatment, but only desires to be faithful in the least of things (Lk. 16:10).
If you are that person that has been hurt by someone else, I am sorry for your pain and what has been done against you. But I encourage to you respond in faithfulness to God. I know that it’s hard and probably will be for a while, but as you are obedient to our Father and do what is commanded of you, He will carry you “as a man carries his son,” (Deut. 1:31). True healing rests only in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.