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.
So often we, like Peter, place a limit on things like forgiveness. “I’ve reached my limit with this person,” we might say. “Only seven chances, that’s a reasonable number before I have to expect something else of them.” “My grace can only go so far.” But thankfully God does not deal with us that way. I would surely be doomed if I was only able to be forgiven seven times before God gave up on me and left me to face the burden of all that guilt and sin. But God is gracious, faithful and just to forgive us our sins as we confess them to Him. And so we must adopt His attitude on forgiveness.
In the parable Jesus tells, a servant owes a very large, unpayable debt, and his master has compassion on him and forgives that debt simply because the servant asked him to. He then goes and demands payment of someone who owes him very little and is unwilling to forgive that small debt and show the same compassion that was shown to him. So the obvious lesson is that if someone comes to us for forgiveness, we must be willing to grant it.
But that’s not always easy. We are weak and sinful humans, not perfect like God is. Not always so full of mercy and grace. Certainly not as powerful or wise as He is. But forgiveness is something He commands of us, and thus He will enable us to do it. It may be helpful to look at forgiving someone as obedience to God out of love and gratefulness for His forgiveness of us. That can help us take the focus off of the hurt and injury done to us and help us see a fallible person who needs our grace. The bigger the offense, the harder this can be, but we can work through it with God’s help. We can pray about the situation and pray for the person we need to forgive. That might help us gain a new perspective or experience the healing that we need to be able to take that step. It may take time, but we can trust God to work in our own heart so that we can forgive others as He has forgiven us, no matter how many times it is required.