Do we forgive those who sin against us?
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 (Read v. 21-35)
How often should we forgive a brother who sins against us? This is the question Peter asked of Jesus. Note Jesus’ answer: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Jesus did not mean only 490 times but all the time! Like our Lord, we are always to be “abundant in mercy” and “ready to forgive” (Psalm 86:5).
The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates Jesus’ point to Peter.
A certain servant owed the king such a great amount that he would never be able to work off and repay his debt. When the king justly would have sold him and all that he had to recover at least a part of this debt, the servant pleaded for mercy. The king was moved to compassion and forgave the entire debt.
But then this servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him only a small and insignificant amount in comparison with the huge debt which had been forgiven him. Rather than showing mercy to this servant as he had been shown mercy by his lord, he refused to forgive this small debt and “threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.”
When the king saw that his compassion and forgiveness had no effect on this unforgiving servant, he was angry and “delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.”
We, like the first servant in this parable, owe to God a greater debt than we can ever repay. Our sins against the Lord God are so great that we deserve only to be cast into the eternal fires of hell. All we can do is fall down before the Lord God and plead for Him to show us mercy!
And God did have mercy upon us! When we looked to Him in faith, He forgave our great debt of sin. Because Jesus Christ took our burden of sins upon Himself and bore on the cross the just punishment for them, God canceled out our debt of sin and has given to us complete pardon and forgiveness!
In our earthly lives, others sin against us many times; but this debt of sin, though it may seem great to us, is small and insignificant in comparison with the great debt of sin that the Lord God has forgiven to us. As a fruit of our faith in Christ Jesus, and as a result of God’s great mercy to us in Christ, we ought also forgive those who sin against us, even “up to seventy times seven.”
If we refuse to forgive, from our hearts, those who sin against us, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us; instead, He will cast us into the fires of hell! Cf. Matthew 6:12,14-15.
Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore, remove from us their burden sore, as we their trespasses forgive who by offenses us do grieve. Thus let us dwell in charity and serve our brother willingly. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Page 458, Verse 6)