The Future Is As Bright As The Promises Of God

Archive for August 28, 2014

How Many Times Must I Forgive?

“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘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 (NASB)
How often shall I forgive my brother? Peter wants to know. Seven times? That certainly ought to be reasonable. It is hard enough to forgive someone once, much less seven times.
We are like Peter. We want to know what are the demands for the minimal requirements for righteousness. What is reasonable to expect of disciples? Tithe? Give some of our income excess to the poor? Attend church at least once a week? Volunteer to drive the youth groups to the mountains next week? That ought to do it. That ought to be enough. Surely God wouldn’t expect more of us than that.
In response to this how-little-can-I-do-and-still-get-by-as-a-disciple question, Jesus tells the story of the forgiving king (vv. 23-35) to remind us all of how great a debt has been forgiven us. This reminder renders all our questions rather irrelevant. How small of us to expect some little, petty, minimal standard of righteousness when we have been so extravagantly, graciously forgiven. The very question shows that we have not fully grasped the greatness of God’s love toward us.
Jesus responds to peter, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but seventy times seven.” In other words, forgiveness is beyond calculation. We are to forgive others without limit, an infinite number of times for an infinitely terrible set of wrongs against us.
Even as God’s love and forgiveness of us has no limits, we are to love and forgive others. In our lives, in the way we forgive others our calling is to mirror some of the divine graciousness in the way we treat other people.
Such forgiveness would be impossible if it were based simply on human good will–for you know how shallow and short-lived is most of our good will.
Forgiveness is based not on good will but upon God’s forgiveness of us. Jesus says, in effect, “Your debts against God are forgiven, your sins against your Creator are blotted out–now you, go and do likewise.”

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