21 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?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” – Matthew 18:21 – 35
How much forgiveness is too much? What’s our limit? Presumably Peter thought he was being generous when he suggested to Jesus that he should forgive his brother or sister up to seven times! But Jesus shocks him by going much larger.
Why so much forgiveness? The key to understanding is in Jesus’ parable: it’s the person who has been forgiven much who understands its value, who understands mercy, who understands kindness. When we choose to be unforgiving, we deny the depth and breadth of the compassion and grace that God has already shown to us through Jesus.
So, the great news is that Jesus has already gone to extraordinary lengths to forgive us even in spite of our huge debt of sin. The implication is that it’s not just a nice idea for us to forgive others, but a requirement. Jesus’ strong language makes it clear that his followers are expected to forgive—and to forgive wholeheartedly, not grudgingly.
It can be pretty hard to do that! Yet Jesus is calling us to reflect deeply (and, I’d suggest, frequently) on the forgiveness and love we’ve received from him. When we remember that we too were given the title of ‘forgiven sinner’, we can gain the motivation and strength to genuinely forgive.
Prayer: Our Father, please help me to see what beliefs about myself that I cling onto that make it hard for me to forgive my sisters and brothers. Help me to see clearly the amazing grace that I have received from you. I thank you for it now. Encourage me to live in love, in response to yours. Amen.
Maddie Pryde and Geoff Pryde, Creek Road campus.