Luke 17:3-5 — 3 “So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (NIV)
We often need an increased measure of faith in order to forgive someone who has deeply offended us just once. Even more faith is required in order to forgive someone who offends us multiple times. Jesus said if a brother sins against us seven times in a day and repents, we are to forgive him each time. Let me remind you what the disciples said after Jesus revealed this truth to them. They cried out together, “Increase our faith!”
Keep in mind that this teaching is directed toward believers. Why is it that those who have been forgiven often have such a hard time forgiving? I believe Jesus explained why in Luke 17:6. He said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (NIV).
At a glance, it might be a little difficult to understand what mustard seeds and mulberry trees have to do with forgiveness. Allow me to explain. I believe a “mulberry tree” is planted the moment someone offends us. If we forgive the offense promptly and properly, the tree will not take root and will be thrown out. It’s much more beneficial to deal with offenses as they come.
But if the initial offense is not forgiven, roots will begin to grow. Then with the next offense, a root of bitterness may shoot down. Perhaps a root of anger or distrust will begin to grow after the next offense. Cynicism may take root after that, and the list goes on. When a person fails to forgive multiple offenses, his or her life will eventually become entangled in a deeply-rooted mess.
Jesus said the faith of a mustard seed is needed in order to uproot, or to forgive, multiple offenses. In fact, the same measure of faith is needed to move mountains (Matthew 17:20). My prayer today is that you will have the faith to forgive.
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