July 10, 2023

JD Wilhelm
"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."
Mathew 18:21-22

Peter’s proposal to forgive his brother seven times sounds extravagant and generous, especially considering that there is no mention of repentance by the brother. That is why Jesus’ response is so surprising! His response to forgive seventy-seven times far exceeds Peter’s proposal. It is important to note that the actual number of times that Jesus says we are to forgive is somewhat arbitrary. In other words, the point is not to take Jesus’ answer in a legalistic manner, counting the strikes someone has left in our lives. Instead, we must understand that Jesus’ response is meant to represent something more. Jesus could have said 770 times or 7,770 times, and the point remains the same. The difference between Peter’s answer and that of Jesus is not a matter of math but of the nature of forgiveness.

The principle is simple: if we are keeping count, we have not forgiven at all. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, love does not keep record of wrongs. The kind of forgiveness called for by Jesus is beyond all calculation. The message of Jesus found in these verses represents a challenge for us today. Being in relationship with others is messy because people are messy. That messiness often causes hurt and strain in our relationships, but when those situations arise, we are to be quick to forgive and resist the urge to keep score.