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?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 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.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 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. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 ESV
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 ESV
There’s a story about a fox who was getting into a farmer’s fields and eating his crops. The farmer became angry with the fox and tied a rope to the fox’s tail. Then he set the rope on fire. He wanted to get revenge on the fox for the damage the fox had caused, but the fox was afraid of the fire and tried to run away from it. He ran through the farmer’s fields and set all of the crops on fire, and the farmer lost everything. His desire for revenge caused him terrible pain and loss.
Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples that not forgiving others puts us in danger of losing all of the love and forgiveness God has given us. Peter wanted to know how many times he should forgive someone who had sinned against him. He thought that seven times would be enough, but Jesus said that he should forgive seventy-seven times. The idea is not to count, but rather to give forgiveness and love as completely and freely as God gives it to us. Then Jesus told a story about a servant who owed such a huge debt to his king that he could never hope to repay it, and the king was about to throw this servant into jail. When the servant begged for mercy, the king forgave him the whole debt. But after this, when the servant met another servant who only owed him a little bit of money, he demanded to be paid, and wouldn’t show any mercy at all. When the king heard about this, he became very angry with his servant and threw him into prison. This is a picture of God, who forgives all of our sins every day, but wants us to forgive others who hurt us. Jesus warns us of God’s judgment for those who will not forgive others.
This is a very hard teaching of Jesus. It isn’t easy to forgive others when we feel hurt and angry. When someone has done a bad thing, we don’t want to say that it wasn’t bad or that it was okay. But forgiving means that we leave everything in God’s hands and let him take care of it all. Forgiving means that we hope that God will change the heart of the other person and work for good through anything that is wrong, and also that he will heal our own sad and angry hearts. Forgiving is just letting the Lord be in control of the situation instead of letting our anger destroy us and cut us off from God’s mercy. Not forgiving someone is saying that we want to take care of everything by ourselves, and soon we will think we can take care of our own sins all by ourselves. That’s when we turn away from God’s mercy and say that we don’t want it.
Jesus came to show us how great and wonderful God’s mercy is. He took all of our sins and paid for them at the cross, even though it cost him his life and caused him terrible pain. We can take all of our sins to the cross and find God’s forgiveness there, and we can take the wrongs that other people have done and leave them at the cross too. God’s mercy is great enough to cover it all, and his love is wonderful enough to give us the healing and help we need.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love and mercy. Please help us to forgive others the way you have forgiven us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.