by Julie Zine Coleman
When we were dating, my husband had the habit including four or five pink demerit slips he had earned at Bible college in each of his letters to me. At one point I asked him just how many he possessed, since he appeared to be drawing from a never-ending supply. He showed me the stack in the top drawer of his desk. It was impressive.
Now don’t get the wrong idea—they were all for relatively small misdemeanors, like leaving the lights on or the bed unmade. Over time, however, they accumulated into enough of a statement that he was called into the dean’s office to give an account for his actions. Apparently even small infractions, over a long period of time, can add up.
This principle is true in relationships as well. It is why Paul, in describing a godly kind of love, reminded the Corinthians: “[Love is] not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV) In this simple description, Paul gives powerful preventive medicine for all of our relationships: choosing forgiveness over bitterness.
The Old Man of the Mountain, a massive granite formation which once overlooked Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, stood for thousands of years. It was the state symbol, and beloved enough to earn a place on the New Hampshire state quarter. Thousands of tourists stopped each year on their way up I-93 to take photographs of this famous landmark. But one night in May 2003, during a heavy rain storm, the Old Man formation collapsed into the valley below. What felled such a huge granite structure, after it had stood for thousands of years? Tiny individual molecules of water.
The collapse of the Old Man was a result of small amounts of water seeping into cracks year after year, freezing and expanding, making the fissures just a bit wider each time. Finally, the cracks became wide enough to weaken the entire structure, and the monument crumbled.
Elisabeth Elliot wrote of this principle within the context of marriage: “Marriages break up when ‘small’ things accumulate and resentments build. Love is the intention of unity. Resentment is the destroyer of unity.” Making frequent decisions to forgive is crucial to the health of any relationship.
Easier said than done, you are probably thinking. You are not alone—Peter struggled with this idea as well. “How many times must I forgive?” he asked the Lord. He then offered, “Up to seven times?” Rabbinic standards required forgiving up to three repeated offenses. Peter had more than doubled the standard. Surely seven times, the number denoting completeness, was generous enough.
Jesus surprised Peter with His answer. “Seventy times seven,” he replied. (Matthew 18:21-22)
How can anyone do that? By remembering what God has done for us. An ability to forgive reflects an understanding of how much we have been forgiven ourselves. We choose to love because we know we are loved. We give grace because He has given it to us. And in the process of imitating our Savior, we understand a bit more of what it took for him to bear our sin. Choosing to put ourselves aside in the interest of restoring others is a perfect way to identify with Jesus Christ.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NASB
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Julie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.
Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation. On Purpose was recently named the Golden Scrolls 2022 Book of the Year.
Join the conversation: What has helped you to be able to forgive past hurts?