Today’s Reading: Matthew 18:21-19:12
Of all the people in the Bible, Peter stands out as the most mathematical of the disciples. He was a stickler for detail, always trying to pin down the precise meaning of everything Jesus said. Being a numbers-guy, one day Peter came up to Jesus and asked him a question in Matthew 18:21, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?
When you think about it, we all have some barriers that keep us from giving the gift of forgiveness to others. We have a threshold that we don’t want to cross, a limit we won’t go beyond. I can think of at least three barriers of an unforgiving heart: Revenge “I’m going to get even!”, Resentment “I’m going to stay angry!” and Remembering “I’ll never forget!”
We’ve all asked this question at one time or another. “How many times do I have to forgive this guy? I’m getting tired of it. Peter may have been thinking of a time when somebody wronged him and he had extended forgiveness. But, this same person did something to hurt him the next day. Again, Peter forgave him. A couple days later, his friend lied to him. This time, Peter reluctantly forgave him but now he’s ticked off. Peter wanted Jesus to help him set some forgiveness limits. Peter wanted to know when it’s OK to say, “That’s it. You’ve messed up one too many times!”
To be honest, forgiving someone seven times is commendable. Most of us get frustrated if we have to forgive someone twice. By human standards, what Peter said was admirable and perhaps even extravagant. Jesus answer to Peter was unexpected and disarming. “..not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” That’s 490 times!
Seventy times seven means there is no limit to the number of times we are to forgive someone. Actually, we are to forgive the way that God has forgiven us.