Summary: The full extent of the law, versus the full extent of grace.
A CALL TO UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS
Perhaps the original grievance was resolved, between one brother and another. The brother was ‘regained’ (Matthew 18:15): but what if he offends again?
How many times, then, shall I forgive him? The rabbis recommended three times. Peter’s magnanimity stretched to seven times.
So it must have come as a surprise when Jesus replied, “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). In other words, unto infinity!
# Christian forgiveness thus stands in stark contrast to the spirit of primitive man, who presumptuously demanded unlimited vengeance (Genesis 4:24).
Jesus illustrated this with a powerful parable. A servant owed his king an unimaginable amount of money - perhaps equivalent to the gross national product of a small state. Needless to say, the man could not pay.
So the servant was subjected to the extremes of the law of the time: he would be sold, along with his wife and children. The servant accepted the justice of this, but pleaded for patience. The lord’s compassion went one step further, and granted undeserved forgiveness.
Yet the forgiven debtor laid hands on a fellow-servant who owed him a comparatively small amount, and sought to exact the debt by violence and cruelty. The other servants rightly reported the matter to their lord, and the cruel offender was brought to account.
# There is nothing that so grieves the Holy Spirit as an unforgiving spirit amongst Christians (Ephesians 4:30-32).
We bring torment upon ourselves if we have an unforgiving heart. We are not hurting the brother, but ourselves. Heaven’s door is shut upon our bitterness, until we repent.
We reap blessing for ourselves if we nurture the determination to forgive the repentant brother. How many times has God forgiven us? Then we must forgive the other to the uttermost.
We pray, ‘forgive us… as we forgive others’ (Matthew 6:12). If we are unforgiving towards others, then these very words disqualify us from forgiveness.
# There is perhaps no greater evidence of our having received God’s forgiveness than our own forgiving attitude towards others (Matthew 6:14-15).