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.”
Forgiving Again and Again
The apostle Peter asked Jesus an important question—one that many of us would like to ask—namely, “How many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?” From what we know about that time, about that culture, it seems as if it was culturally appropriate to forgive a person three times if they’d committed the same sin. So, when Peter suggested “seven times,” he likely thought that he was being very generous.
Jesus’ answer unmasked him. “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus’ point was clear; we aren’t to count how many times we forgive. Instead, we are to just keep on forgiving.
Why? Because God doesn’t count how many times he’s forgiven you and me. As much as I’ve messed it up—and badly—God keeps on forgiving me! Jesus’ death won forgiveness for all of it, no matter how “big” or “small” the sin was.
And no, that doesn’t lead me to say, “Ok. I can go out and sin again.” Rather, it leads me to say, “Wow! Thank you, God, for your gracious, forgiving love, which is never-ending.” And then?
And then it empowers us to forgive others. Not three times. Not seven times. Instead, we’ll forgive as many times as is necessary . . . just as God has forgiven us.
Lord, remind me that you have forgiven me over and over and over again, that I might be motivated to forgive others, too. Amen.