This story appears in FCA Magazine’s September/October 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
Matthew 18:21-22 is one of those moments where I believe we see the very human, almost sarcastic, side of Christ: “Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!”
I remember reading that when I was younger and thinking about how long it would take me to forgive someone 490 times. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized Jesus responded with a number even though it’s really not about the number at all. The lesson is that God freely offers forgiveness to us (an unlimited number of times), and we are to pay that forward.
Easier said than done, right?
I, as much as anyone, understand the act of forgiving someone or asking for forgiveness isn’t something we always look forward to or enjoy. Oftentimes, we try to avoid it or ignore it because of the unpleasantness. It’s not much different than the feeling we get when the alarm sounds at 5 or 6 a.m. and we’d rather hit the snooze button than get up and get to work. It’s much easier to hold a grudge or hang on to bitterness toward someone who’s wronged us than it is to offer forgiveness. But that only leads to more anger and resentment. As Christian artist Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” says, “The prisoner that it really frees is you.”
Whether it’s a fellow coach who has been disloyal or a teammate who has taken advantage of a situation, we must be willing to offer forgiveness—knowing there is ultimately freedom on the other side.
Coaches and players will inevitably disappoint and hurt each other over the course of a season. The same is also true in all the relationships with our friends, families, coworkers and communities. Put any group of people together and it won’t always be perfect because, guess what, none of us are perfect. But the most successful teams and relationships thrive because they address the imperfection head on and discuss how forgiveness is the only true medicine that heals wounds from affliction.
Colossians 3:13 addresses the how and why of forgiving others: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
When we are willing to forgive others as God has forgiven us, amazingly, the real winner is our own hearts. When we let go of the negative emotions, it frees our hearts and increases our ability to love those who wronged us.
The act of forgiveness is just like a muscle that must be flexed, stretched, taxed and tested so it can be strengthened.
Consider it a blessing to encounter opportunities to strengthen the muscle of forgiveness every single day. Martin Luther King Jr. explained what happens when we don’t work that muscle, allowing it to wither away: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”
So keep flexing, keep stretching, and keep using that forgiveness muscle. With it, you’ll strengthen yourself in the ability to love others as Christ has called us.
Peace and blessings to you,