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.”
“How can I forgive you?” Perhaps you’ve said that to someone. The person really hurt you. And this isn’t the first time. The person has wronged you before. Now it’s very hard to find the inner strength or motivation to forgive and forgive again.
The apostle Peter raised a significant question when he asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” Peter’s question is direct and to the point. How often should he be willing to forgive someone who sins against him repeatedly—perhaps with the very same sin? Is there a limit to the times that he should forgive others? At what point is he to say, “That’s enough; I can forgive you no more!”
Relationships between sinful people are often marred by sinful words and actions—some recurring over and over again. In every marriage, in every family, in every friendship, there is the continuing need to forgive those who repeatedly sin against us. However, we, too, may wonder with Peter whether our forgiveness toward others has limits. Since we identify with Peter in this question, Jesus’ answer also applies to us: “I tell you (to forgive), not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
How is this possible? How do we find the love and strength to forgive those who sin against us? We remember how much God has been willing to forgive us. In spite of our many sins—in fact, because of our many sins—God sent his Son, Jesus, to this world. His perfect life and innocent death earned forgiveness for us. What a patient and forgiving God we have!
Remember this the next time it is your turn to forgive those who have sinned against you, whether it is the seventh or the seventy-seventh time.
Jesus, in the peace of forgiveness that I have through you, give me the ability to forgive others. Amen.