As I was reading this passage, something new struck me as I was reading the ESV.
Jesus is, of course, talking about forgiveness here. He said,
If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. (3 — NIV)
This is a key point about forgiveness. There is no room for seething, or holding in your anger for long stretches of time when someone hurts you. Jesus tells us to confront them about it. Now you may want to hold off a bit before you talk to them if you need to calm down, but to just let your anger build is definitely not a good thing. And Jesus says that if they apologize, forgive them.
Jesus then takes it further. The ESV puts it this way,
And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. (4)
In the King James Version, it says,
Thou shalt forgive him.
In short, this is not just a simple suggestion to forgive. It’s a command. Jesus isn’t saying, “If he apologizes, you might want to consider forgiving him.”
He’s saying, “Forgive!”
The disciples’ response?
Increase our faith! (5)
I think a lot of us feel this way. “Lord, my hurt is so deeply rooted, I don’t know if I can forgive. Increase my faith so that I can forgive.”
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. (6)
Jesus is saying here, it doesn’t matter how deeply rooted your hurt may be, it can get rooted out. And you don’t require a whole lot of faith either. What matters is not how much faith you have, but who you have your faith in. Jesus is the great healer, and no matter what hurt you may have, he can bring healing.
The question then is not a matter of the amount of willpower you have to change yourself. None of the commandments God gives us is. None of us have the power to change ourselves and make ourselves perfect. But Jesus can. So don’t turn to yourself and try to will yourself to forgive. Turn to Jesus and ask for his healing and his help. And by putting your faith in him, you will see miracles happen.