- Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? Seven times?’ ” ‘No, not seven times,’ answered Jesus, ‘but seventy times seven’ (Matthew 18:21-22)
“Seventy time seven times”?! You have got to be kidding!
Now the reason why Peter was specific about seven times is because the acceptable times to grant forgiveness in that day was three times. The Jewish law stipulated that a wounded person was obligated to forgive someone three times. So Peter doubles the number of times the law demanded and then added one free pass as a bonus and he thought he was giving Jesus a real blue light special.
Peter wanted to say seven strikes then you are out. Jesus was not even saying four hundred and ninety strikes and you are out. Peter thought if someone sinned against you and he repented and you forgave him and then he did exactly the same thing and repented and you forgave him again, you could say “now that’s two!” But, here is what Jesus said, you can’t keep a scorecard. If somebody sins against you the first time and you forgive that brother then you promise not to ever hold it against him again. If he sins again, you cannot say “that’s two”, you’ve got to say “that is one!” So it is very obvious that Jesus has to teach not only Peter, but all of us exactly what God expects of us concerning this matter of forgiving those who hurt us.
Is there someone in your life who is difficult to forgive?
What do you do when someone continually hurts you? What do you do when someone has hurt you deeply? Through habit or mean intention, some people create an atmosphere where, as much as we try, forgiveness seems to slip away. Hatred and emotional distance take its place. At these times, we want to cry out, “Lord! I have really tried. And, I’ve had enough!”
But forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian message. As God forgives us, we are to forgive others.
One great psychologist said, “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me”
I want to ask you a very important and penetrating question this morning. Please answer it in the quietness of your own heart but with utter honesty.
Do you have a forgiving spirit?
Do you practice what we say weekly in the Lord’s Prayer:
- Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Matthew 6:12)
Do you have a forgiving spirit?
Let us remember what Jesus said from the cross:
- Jesus said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34)
If Jesus can forgive those who arrested Him, tortured Him, and crucified Him on a cross, can’t we forgive those who have harmed us?
Nothing we can possible undergo can be worse than Jesus’ death on the cross. We have been forgiven much more than we could possibly ever repay.
Let us pray:
- Dear Lord, sometimes we forget to forgive those who hurt us; sometimes we hold grudges and seek vengeance for those wrongs. Please remind us that we are forgiven by you for all our sins before we even ask. Let us remember to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Amen.
Oh God give me a heart of forgiveness so that I may commune with you in the fullness of fellowship and joy and not experience the chastening that comes when you don’t forgive me because I won’t forgive a brother or sister in Christ. May I remember that for everyone who sins against me, I have sinned multiplied times against you, and you have always forgiven me.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 14 September 2014