Jesus has been both instructing and illustrating about greatness in the Kingdom by the life of a child – he who wants to be great should be least, have the humility of a child, and that the delight of God is for salvation to come to all without one lost. This love necessarily includes forgiveness. Forgiveness includes two parties – the offender and the offended. Now Jesus is tested at a legalistic level - how often should I forgive? The answer is unexpected.
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] Matthew 18:21-22.
1. Forgiveness: Measured by the Heart. You have to love Peter. Fumbling through confusion with the message of Jesus, right answers and affirmations at times, and testing the limits of the Kingdom as taught by Jesus. The Rabbinical teaching was forgiving 6 times. Peter ups his game and questions and suggests 7 times. Jesus answer: if you are counting, you are not forgiving. It is a matter of the heart, not of calculation. It is to be without limits.
2. Parable of Non-Forgiveness. To emphasize His point, Jesus give a parable of the unmerciful servant. Having been forgiven by his master of a massive debt, with the plea of mercy and patience, he immediately went out and demanded repayment of lesser debt from another, after receiving the same follow up plea from this new debtor for patience. In other words, the encouragement for forgiveness is from the forgiveness we have received from others – or in this case, from God.
3. Warning for Those Who Refuse to Forgive. And to emphasize His point, Jesus warns that for those unwilling to forgive, in the same measure in which they have been forgiven, the life consequences are severe. This point could not have been missed by the disciples and would be increasingly applicable as they moved into the realm of the enemies of Jesus and the cross and persecution of the church.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12-13.
Important note: Forgiveness does not erase consequences, nor does it require that we forget offenses. Often that is impossible. Rather, it means you continue to extend out the love of God to those who do not deserve it. Remember, neither did we!
There is a broad path to the values of the world, and a narrow path for the pilgrim following Jesus. Blessing on you as you apply these forgiveness, mercy and love principles…even when others don’t deserve it. Next week: Instruction of divorce, which follows directly form instruction on forgiveness. Stay well.
- John Moore, Owner/Proprietor