Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. – Matthew 18:21 & 22
In the verses above we find the Apostle Peter coming to Christ trying to impress Him with how patient and long-suffering he was with his brethren. Peter offers to extend forgiveness to those who would sin against him multiple times. As an outsider looking in I would say that Peter is being more than fair and offering mercy beyond what the average person would. When comparing Peter’s commitment to forgive to those who lived in his day and time and also to compare it to our day and time I’m afraid we all many times fall short.
The compelling part of these verses however is that Christ does not ask us to compare our mercy and forgiveness to Peter and see how we stack up but rather we are required to forgive beyond what seems reasonable. Christ admonishes Peter to extend forgiveness not only after the seventh offense but until after the 490th offense. What Jesus understood that Peter could not was that if we only forgive seven times then our heart never changes and we are simply fulfilling an obligation to our religion, however if we are going to forgive the sins against us by another up to 490 times that will require a commitment to long-suffering, patience, love, and trust that God’s ways are better than ours. By the time you attempt to keep track of the offenses of another your heart toward them will be trained and conditioned to forgive. Do something seven times and you might know how to do it but do something 490 times and you will become and expert at it. Christ was teaching Peter to make forgiveness his first response rather than a last resort.
We often see stories on the news of those who have been deeply hurt by another and often marvel as then extend mercy and forgiveness to those who hurt them deeply. As we see the events unfold we wonder within ourselves if we would have the strength to forgive as Christ forgave or would we be become bitter and spiteful in the face of difficulty. May we all be challenged today to not simply “put up” with the command to forgive but rather bask in the freedom and liberty of knowing that the all-powerful God of the universe knows our hurts, feels our pain and understands our situation and that He is the only one who can make it right. We can either find joy in forgiving and forgiving again or live our lives taking inventory of the offenses against us and plotting our revenge. May we each stop counting how much more we can “put up with” knowing what our Saviour “puts up with” from us every day yet still forgives.