One day Peter asked Jesus a question that had probably been forming in his mind for some time. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Peter was being generous when he suggested forgiving someone seven times, for the traditional rabbinic teaching was that an offended person needed to forgive a brother only three times.
However, Jesus’ reply communicated that we need to exercise forgiveness to a much greater extent. “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (verse 22). Jesus was teaching that forgiveness has no limits. We’re to forgive no matter what the number of sins committed! Jesus set no limits on our forgiving an individual who has committed limitless offenses against us.
Then Jesus, the Master Teacher as well as the Master Forgiver, told a parable that illustrated the concept of unlimited forgiveness (verses 23-35). He told of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed an enormous amount — the equivalent of about a million dollars in today’s economy. Well, of course the servant couldn’t pay. So, according to the custom of the day, the king ordered the servant and his family to be sold as slaves to recoup part of his debt. But when the servant pleaded with his master, begging for time to repay his debt, the master took pity on the servant, canceled the debt, and set him free.
So what did the forgiven debtor do? He went out and found another servant who owed him a much smaller amount—the equivalent of a day’s wages. The first servant demanded payment and refused to show mercy toward his debtor. In fact, he had the second servant thrown into prison until he paid the debt.
Others went to the master and told him what had happened, what his forgiven servant had done to a fellow servant. When the master heard this, he called back the first servant and jailed him for failing to show mercy to a fellow servant when he had been forgiven a much greater debt.
By way of this parable, Jesus was teaching that forgiveness should be in direct proportion to the amount we’ve been forgiven. The first servant had been forgiven all, and he in turn should have forgiven all. If you are a child of God, all your sins have been forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when someone sins against you, you are to forgive that person fully from your heart, no matter how many times the act occurs.
Now, this does not mean that you are to continue to place yourself in a position to be abused. But, the spiritual act of forgiving another helps you recall that we are all sinners, and it is God who is judge, not us. As a believer, you have the love of God within you to praise God for His grace to you and forgive another’s actions against you in order that they know that a kind, good, and forgiving God can rescue them from their sin too.
A Prayer to Pray
Jesus, may I always remember with appropriate humility and gratitude the sin condition that was mine without your intervention. Help me to demonstrate this forgiveness to others who have hurt me in order that they may know you and change the direction of their destructive lives.
Fore more encouragement read, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.