“My brother was mean,” my friend said. “When we were kids we fought like cats and dogs. I idolized him. I did everything I could to please him, but it was never enough. I couldn’t understand it. We loved each other, but if you put us together sparks would fly.
“I resented him for 40 years,” she said, and carefully measured her next words. “Unforgiveness… is one of the most painful things you can experience in your life.”
“We finally became friends 10 years ago,” she continued, “when he turned 50. And one day, he suddenly said, ‘It’s easier to hate your sister than your father.’ Then I saw our old arguments in a whole new light.”
Her words struck home.
Though I never experienced what my friend faced with her abusive father and brother, I’ve known rejection, nursed grudges, and struggled with unforgiveness. We all have.
Loving someone who deliberately hurts you–even if they are family–seems impossible. Yet the Bible tells us that “Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.’” (Matt. 18:20–22)
Those verses used to make me choke. Or swear. Or throw my hands up in despair. Surely Jesus couldn’t have meant that… but he did.
“Forgive your brother from your heart,” said Jesus (Matt. 18:35).
This does not mean you must give someone else the opportunity to keep sinning against you. Forgiveness is not extending permission for abuse. Forgiveness is not a pretense there was no sin or that it didn’t hurt. Forgiveness is only required one sin at a time. Whatever you have against someone, bring that to God, and start there.
Jesus can help you forgive. And, in forgiving, you become a member of God’s own family. He said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? …Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:48-50)