How Often Must I Forgive?
July 25, 2021
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Peter was a fisherman before Jesus called him to discipleship. He was also a disciple of Jesus Christ going on 3 years at that time. He understood human nature; he understood his own human nature. He knew the tendency of people is to offend, confess, be forgiven, repeat. No wonder he thought, “How often can such forgiveness be granted to someone? How often should a follower of Jesus Christ be called to repentance and restored to fellowship knowing it will be repeated? Is there some point when we should say ‘enough’!?”
Earlier (Matthew 5:23-24) Jesus said, Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. The Lord put no limitations on this principle. If we have offended someone, we are to go and make it right. If we remember someone has offended us, we are to go and make it right. We cannot worship the Lord in spirit and truth if forgiveness is withheld.
According to the Priests and Rabbis of that day, limiting man’s forgiveness to 3 was based on God’s forgiveness to the nations as stated in Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13: Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron . . . Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they took captive the whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom . . . Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood . . . Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword, and cast off all pity; His anger tore perpetually, Aan he kept his wrath forever . . . Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of the people of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they ripped open the women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their territory.
“We should not be presumptuous in granting forgiveness to others more often than God”, they thought. Peter believed himself to be more spiritual than the Rabbis by extending the offering of forgiveness to 7 times. He had matured in his understanding of Jesus’ teaching, but he was still a long way off from understanding God’s grace and mercy.
“Lord Jesus, it is only by Your love, grace, and mercy that we are able to forgive others as You have forgiven us. May we not withhold the blessing of forgiveness to anyone, knowing that our own wretchedness equals or exceeds theirs, yet we have been forgiven by You. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”