Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (NIV)
I grew up in a large family with three brothers and two sisters. Usually, we all got along very well, but sometimes a fight would break out and we would end up pitching fits against each other. My poor mother had to come in and stop the racket, scold us for fighting, and then get us to apologize to one another. Sometimes I didn’t want to do this, so I was sent to my room until I was willing to say sorry and reconcile with my brothers and sisters.
When I read of Peter asking Jesus about how many times he should forgive his brother, I know exactly how that feels. It makes me like Peter even more because he’s just so completely human. He expresses what is on his mind and this passage shows us that he feels as though his brother or sister is taking him for granted. Peter reckons that if he has forgiven his sibling seven times then that is more than generous. He wants Jesus to affirm what he feels; he’s not really asking a question, he’s asking for approval.
As usual, Jesus uses the moment to teach Peter about forgiveness. The reply Jesus gives is as if Jesus is saying to him, “Only seven times? Not even seventy-seven times would be enough.”
Forgiveness is a gift that we all seek from God on a daily basis. I guess if I was to add up the number of times that God has forgiven me, it would run into the millions. And because God is so willing to pardon and forgive me, He expects me to do the same with others – my family, my friends, church members, work colleagues, neighbors, and even my enemies. Forgiveness is one of the most important aspects of our Christian faith, so we should practice and apply it on a daily basis.
Point to ponder
Have I withheld forgiveness for someone? Am I willing to let God help me to forgive?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgiveness was so important to You that You were willing to sacrifice Your life so we could all be forgiven. Grant us the courage and strength to forgive those who have hurt, disappointed, or angered us. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Today’s image is one of John’s Gospel drawings called “Washed with Tears.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Tears.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can view the church website at this link: www.erinpresbyterian.org.