According to a recent survey conducted by the American Bible Society, Americans who regularly read their Bible are more able to forgive others than those who don’t.
In its survey, ABS asked people to respond to this statement:
“I am able to sincerely forgive whatever someone else has done to me, regardless of whether they ever ask for forgiveness or not.”
The survey found that 94% of those who considered themselves to be scripturally engaged agreed with that statement, compared to only 6% who did not.
Scripturally engaged people were defined as those who believe the Bible impacts their daily lives and relationship with God and others.
In comparison, only 59% of the people who were not scripturally engaged agreed with that statement.
As believers, we understand that we must forgive those who hurt us. This was one of Christ’s major messages, we have to forgive, because we have been forgiven.
But I would like to point out one important point about forgiveness.
You may need to forgive the same incident more than once.
When Peter asked Christ how many times a person needed to forgive his brother, seven times.
Jesus replied 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:21-22).
Since it would be almost impossible to keep track of having forgiven a person 490 times, most believe Jesus was simply stating there was no limit to how many times we need to forgive others.
And if you actually did keep track of the 490 times you forgave, so you are no longer required to forgive on the 500the time, one would question the sincerity of the forgiveness the previous 489 times.
But in addition to that, I believe this was not necessarily a reference to 490 different offences, but rather the same offence needing to be forgiven multiple times.
Because I believe forgiveness is like an onion.
As we choose to forgive an offence, we peel back one layer, but like an onion other layers may still remain.
These additional layers are revealed when this offence comes back to our memory again, often triggered by events we encounter during our day.
When that happens, I believe it is a sign that we need to forgive one more time and in the process remove the next layer.
I believe these memories are still alive in our minds because they have a negative emotional charge of anger or resentment still attached to them.
This gives these memories life, allowing them to reappear magically out of nowhere.
As these memories return, it is a sign we may need to forgive yet again.
And then one day, as we rip off that final peel, the onion is gone, a moment that Christ defined as forgiving from the heart (Matthew 18:35).