Peter came to Jesus with a burning question, blurting it out in the middle of Jesus’ lesson. (Aren’t we just like Peter sometimes? So busy with our own agendas that we miss what He is saying to us right in that moment?)
“Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?”
Oh Peter. Always asking questions we like to believe we would never ask.
I think of sticky-faced children begging to be let down from their seat at the dinner table. Their plates cleared of everything except the pile of their disliked vegetable. “Can I be done? PLEASE! I’ve already eaten three big bites!! How much more?!”
Seven. How did Peter land on that number? It’s almost as if Peter had just been betrayed seven times and was now looking for a nod from the Forgiver of Sin to justify his frustration. It’s almost as if he longed to be given the “all clear” to throw his hands in the air and walk away from the pursuit of reconciliation. At least that’s how I behave when I’m wronged.
Jesus, always so patient, answers, “70 x 7” but then leaves Peter with a story.
“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.”
There it was. A king’s servant, forgiven of the massive debt of 10,000 talents, yet unwilling to extend the same forgiveness for a debt of 100 talents that was owed him. We scoff at the unbelievable behavior of the servant. We wonder how anyone could behave in such a way, but truthfully, the line between the unnamed king’s servant and our own natural tendencies is much thinner than we care to believe.
We cry to Abba like children at the dinner table, “Can’t I be done? I’ve already had enough. How much more must I take?” And He looks at us, His children, with patience. He answers our question with grace. And Jesus points to Himself. He points to His cross. His forgivenesses extending all the way to death. Complete. No strings attached.
So how many times are we to forgive our “brothers”?
If you are a Christian, the title itself means “a little Christ”. We are literally to be like a replica of Jesus. Our lives were created for the purpose of representing our Father. So when Peter asked God how many times he was to forgive his enemy, God gives Him a number. The “escape route” Peter sought. But then Jesus followed up in kindness; If we want to be like Him, we must forgive like Him.
When we were imprisoned for our sins against a Holy God, that SAME God extended grace to us. Grace as wide as His cross-bearing arms. Far beyond 70x7. He offers forgiveness to us that is unlimited, stretching well above numbers and counting. His Forgiveness is not bound by a tally. He keeps no records.
I am a King’s servant forgiven of 10,000.
How can I not forgive 100?
It’s not natural. It’s definitely not easy, but God doesn't command us to follow in His steps only to lead us to failure.
My modern day hero, Corrie Ten Boom, who endured more injustices and hurt than I could imagine, wrote:
“When God commands you to love your enemies, He gives you the love that He commands from you.”
A love for those who hurt us.
A love that can only come from Jesus.
Show me how to see what Your mercy sees… forgiveness,
ARH Staff Writer
“To whom much is given, much is required.”