Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
In response to Jesus’ teaching on reconciliation, Peter asks, “How often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” And he adds, “Seven times?” There must be some limit to the number of times we have to forgive, right? The rabbis of the day said three times was enough. So Peter doubles that and adds one. To forgive seven times had to be enough. Jesus answers Peter’s question with “seventy-seven times.” This was Jesus’ way of saying there is to be no limit to forgiveness because the believer must always keep in mind the forgiveness she has received from God. We live in a world where all people, even Christians, still sin, and we must learn how to deal with relational conflict. Jesus then told the story of a king who ran across one of his servants who owed him literally millions of dollars. The man had no way to repay and was put in prison along with his family as punishment. He could never repay the debt he owed, so he fell on the ground and begged the king for more time. The king pitied the man, and so freely and completely forgave him all that he rightfully owed. But, as we read, the man had a few dollars owed to him, and he sought out his debtor and demanded payment. The debtor begged for more time, but the man said, “No,” and threw him into jail.
The parallel is crystal clear here. Like the man, we have been forgiven an unpardonable debt before God. How absurd we must look before him and the angels if we refuse to fully forgive others. Christians should be the most forgiving people on the planet, as we continually reflect on the radical forgiveness that God has lavished upon us. We have received grace and mercy at the expense of Jesus. If we don’t extend grace and mercy to those who have sinned against us, we can’t expect to bathe in the forgiveness of Christ. Jesus adds that God won’t be fooled by false forgiveness as he says, “If you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35). May we never be found holding grudges against one another. If you have not genuinely and completely forgiven someone today, then stop and do so now. This is very serious to God, the Father of all believers.