The first verses in the first chapter of the book of Isaiah are terrifying! In them, God uses strong language to outline the many offenses of the nation of Judah, including oppression of the poor, corrupt dealings, and blood on their hands, which have led to their being estranged from Him. He says that their religious observances have become false and worthless, and their hearts are wicked and in rebellion to God; and as a result, they are being utterly and completely defeated by their enemies.
Maybe Peter thought he was going to stump Jesus when he asked the question “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?” He wanted a number, some quantification of when enough was enough and forgiveness was spent. Peter throws out a number, “Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus responds, “but seventy times seven!”1
“Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.”1 The first time I heard that Bible verse, my heart hurt, and I felt so ashamed. Why? Because I knew there were people I hadn’t forgiven. Yet I really wanted God to forgive me for the things that I had done that hurt someone else.
He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy.
—Titus 3:5 NIV
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
—Matthew 5:7 NIV
My favorite taste is sour—sour candies, pickles, anything with lemon, sour cherries, you name it—I love it! Some people may prefer savory, or sweet—or the newcomer to the block, umami—but the one basic taste I’ve never found to be anyone’s favorite is bitter. I’m not surprised! In fact, the word I’ve seen most used in definitions of the word bitter is “unpleasant.”
Years ago, I was in a complicated and unpleasant work situation with one of my coworkers. Things didn’t improve, and I was relieved when he eventually moved on. Some time later, I received a short email from him with two simple words: “I apologize.”
The Gospels describe Jesus being whipped, beaten, and then nailed to a cross. As He hung there, waiting to die, some of His last words were “Father, forgive them.”1 Forgiveness was His response to an unjust trial, being lashed by a whip with weighted strands that lacerated the skin, inflicting unimaginable pain, having spikes hammered through His hands and feet, and being left to die on the cross in agony. While on the one hand, His reaction is very surprising, it also makes perfect sense when we read what Jesus taught about forgiveness throughout His ministry. He not only taught it—He embodied it, both in His life and His death. He practiced what He preached.