This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.
Then Peter approached Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?” “I tell you, not as many as seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”
How many times will we let ourselves be hurt? How many times will we let ourselves be wronged? What is the limit to our kindness?
These seem to be the questions Peter had in mind. Jesus had taught his followers what to do if someone sinned against them. Not thinking of exceptions when an offense is so great that law enforcement authorities need to be involved, the answer for normal offenses is to go to the one who hurt you and seek reconciliation.
But what happens if the same person hurts you again? And again? And again?
According to Jesus, you keep on forgiving.
This is, after all, the grace that God extends to us. When we trust in Jesus, he forgives all our sin, past, present, and future. He gives us a new heart so that we desire, and grow in our desire, to not sin against God. Yet, we are not yet perfect. Our sanctification is not yet finished. We still have moments of rebellion against God, moments where we spurn his grace.
And he keeps providing grace.
Jesus’ point to Peter was not to keep a list. Don’t bear in mind a former offense when considering a current one. People will fail you. Some people will fail you over and over and over. Keep providing grace.
This is not an easy thing, though. Again, because we’re not perfect. So, how do we grow in forgiveness?
First, we should remember the grace that God has shown to us. After answering Peter, Jesus tells a story about a man who was forgiven much who then goes out and refuses to forgive someone else. The unforgiving man is rebuked by his forgiver: “You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (18:32-33)
This is a reminder that the sum of a person’s offenses against us pale in comparison to our rebellion against God. Think about how much God forgave you and it will spur you to forgive others.
Second, we should pray for hearts of greater grace. When we struggle to forgive another, the answer is to turn to the Author of Forgiveness. Where we are weak, he is strong. Pray and pray more until you are able to find yourself forgiving.
All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.