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
Have you ever been forgiven? If so, you know how wonderful it is to be shown this great kindness. Though you didn’t deserve it, someone chose to forgive your offense and welcome you back with love. Although many eagerly receive forgiveness, very few are as quick to offer that same forgiveness to others. When Jesus was asked by Peter how many times he was supposed to forgive those who had sinned against him, Peter thought that seven times was enough. However, Jesus responded and told him to forgive others up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). And no, this does not simply mean that you only have to forgive 490 times because 70×7=490. On the contrary, when Jesus responded in this way to His followers, He was explaining that forgiveness should not be limited. The number 7 is used through Scripture as a symbol to describe completeness or perfection. Thus, when Jesus said forgive seventy times seven, He was saying, let your forgiveness be unconditional and unlimited. When Christians forgive, they are to do so without thinking about it. This does not mean that you must accept every transgression as right, rather we are called to recognize the offense as wrong, but still choose to pardon it. Proverbs 19:11 states, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” When we choose to overlook the offenses of others, we are blessed. When we choose to forgive, we eliminate hatred and bitterness from our hearts. When we forgive, we no longer allow the pains and hurts of the past to spiritually and emotionally cripple us. Thus, when we forgive we become free.
Likewise, when we forgive we look more like Christ. The most Christlike thing you could ever do for someone else is forgive them. Show them grace and mercy. Forgive like Christ. For when you do, you make the love of God manifest to the world. God’s love is expressed most clearly through His free choice to forgive those who rebelled against Him. No man has ever been more wronged than Jesus Christ. He was misrepresented by the Jewish religious leaders. He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of His twelve disciples. He was rejected by His own people. He was abandoned by His friends and followers. He was mocked and wrongly accused by the Romans. Finally, Jesus was beaten and killed for the sins of the world. When Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, was on the cross suffering an unjust punishment, what was His response? Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Though Jesus had every right and every reason to condemn the world, He offered forgiveness. We could not earn it and we don’t deserve it, but Jesus gave Himself for us so that we could be forgiven for our sins. That is the good news of the gospel. No matter what you have said, thought, or done, Jesus offers you forgiveness and a new start. His arms are open wide, all you must do is trust in Him and receive it.
Are you ready to forgive anyone and everyone? Let us loosen our grip of past grudges and built up bitterness and forgive like Christ!