“As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Peter thought he was being quite generous. Forgiving someone seven times sure does seem like a lot, doesn’t it? The truth is, forgiving repeated offenses goes against our nature. Just look at Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant. He had just been forgiven a debt he could never repay, and even in the afterglow of such generosity, he couldn’t find it in himself to forgive a fellow servant a mere pittance.

Jesus knows our weakness. He is not surprised by all the times we forget what he has done for us and fail to show mercy to others. But he asks us to show mercy anyway.

Let’s face it. Mercy just doesn’t come naturally to us. We have to work at it. Just as a small child has to be encouraged over and over again to turn off the light when he leaves a room, we have to keep try­ing again and again until forgiveness becomes a habit. We know Jesus has given us the commandment, and we even know why we should do it. But that doesn’t make it any easier. All we can do is practice.

But here’s the good news: Practicing mercy will break us—in a good way. It will set us free from our habit of holding on to our annoy­ances, hurts, and resentments. The good thing about practicing some­thing is that we get better at it over time. So what if you don’t feel that emotion of gratitude to the Lord that makes it easy to forgive? Don’t let that stop you! Don’t use it as an excuse for not forgiving. Maybe you’re not there yet; maybe forgiving from the heart seems beyond your ability. Maybe all you can say is: “Lord, I’m willing for you to make me willing.” Keep trying, and you will keep making progress.

Today you will have many oppor­tunities to practice forgiveness. Go ahead and do it. Make the decision to let go of all the reasons you feel you shouldn’t have to forgive. With each step you take, forgiveness will heal both you and the person you forgive. Remember: Practice makes perfect!

“Jesus, I know that I have so far to go! Change my heart. Open my eyes to see each chance I have to practice forgiveness today!”

Daniel 3:25,34-43; Psalm 25:4-9