“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” Matthew 18:21
Peter knew forgiveness was a key characteristic of God that he was called to exemplify for others. Knowing the Pharisees taught that they should forgive an offender two times, Peter must have thought he was pretty spiritual when he suggested forgiving an offender seven times. I wonder how shocked he was when he heard Jesus say we are to forgive an offender up to seventy times seven?
The phrase “seventy times seven” was a Jewish idiom that basically meant an innumerable amount. In other words, Jesus commanded that we forgive others without keeping a record of how many times we forgave them. Jesus knows that if a person refuses to forgive others, they will emotionally cripple themselves and those who need forgiveness. N.T. Wright wrote, “Forgiveness is a two way street: by releasing one person from guilt, you release yourself from being crippled by their actions.”
Many Christians today are crippled emotionally because they have not learned what it means to “forgive one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32b). Maybe you are crippled emotionally because of a lack of forgiveness for others. If so, take some time today and make a list of your top five hurts. Who must be forgiven to relieve these burdens? How can forgiveness be initiated? Who might help? Once you answer these questions, take action that you might release that other person from guilt and release yourself from being emotionally crippled by them.
Join us Wednesday night at 6:30pm at the Portillo’s home as we open Matthew 18:21-35 and learn how to forgive from the powerful “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant”. God bless you all and hope to see you there!