“Up To Seven Times?”
If there is one thing a Christian learns about, it’s forgiveness. The whole foundation of Godliness is built upon it. The ministry of Christ Jesus was all about teaching people to forgive trespasses. One of many examples where this teaching can be found is recorded in Mt. 18:21-22.
In this scene, Jesus is talking about forgiveness to His disciples. It may have been the emphsis which Jesus was placing on the matter, but it prompted a question from Peter. In Mt. 18:21. He asks Jesus “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Perhaps some background will help in understanding the impact Jesus’ answer had on Peter. In the first century, the number seven was used metaphorically to express completeness, or in this case, the full measure of understanding and forgiving someone. It did not mean that on the eighth transgression there was no more requirement to grant forgiveness, although Peter does seem to be asking at what point does the requirement to forgive end.
That is why Jesus’ response came as such a surprise when He answered in Mt.18:22 “…I tell not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This was our Lord’s way of saying forgiveness without end. No matter how many times we may be wronged by another, as Christians we must try to find a way to truely forgive anyone with a sincere heart! Not to be misunderstood…this does not mean we must be a “doormat” and let someone continuously take advantage of us. Afterall, we can stop associating with anyone who treats us in that manner. However, it is our obligation to forgive those with true sorrow for their wrongdoing without end.
Think of it this way. What if Jesus was asking His Father how many times He had to forgive US of OUR transgressions? Would we want to know that “eight was enough,” so to speak? All people are guilty of sin and fall short of the glory of God. That is why Jesus’ perfect blood on the cross was “once for all,” a perfect and sinless sacrifice which, coupled with God’s grace to forgive our sins, gives us hope to live with Him in heaven one day.
Showing unlimited forgiveness is without a doubt one of the most difficult practices a Christian is called upon to do. Those who believe that religion is just a “crutch for the weak” do not understand the true strength which is required to follow God’s will! Look at things this way. A believer’s standard for living life is imitating Christ…which would require perfection. Since we cannot attain such a level as that, we all need God’s unlimited grace…
Reaching spiritual maturity where forgivness is concerned requires life long practice. But it is so important to the understanding of how to live a Christian life. So many passages of scripture are dedicated to this topic, also referred to as mercy, (see Mt.5:7, Jas.2:13).
One final but most important key to obtaining forgiveness is sincerity. As was mentioned earlier, when we are asked to forgive, it must be from the heart of that person. The same applies to us when we ask God to forgive our sins. Even if transgressions are repeated, if forgiveness is sought with true sorrow, it must be granted. We pray for it from our Lord and Savior and we ask nothing less of others toward us!