Summary: Truly forgiven people will become forgiving people.
We are in the middle of a series on Relational Living and what it takes to make a relationship work. We started with LOVE. Then last week we added ENCOURAGEMENT. Today, we add something that might be the hardest for us to do—FORGIVE. Forgiveness many times is not easy, especially when we are hurt badly. So, forgiveness comes at a price.
Sometimes we’re better off paying a higher price for something than going the cheap route.
? Have you ever bought the generic brand of peanut butter, only to discover you should have paid the higher price to get something that actually tasted like peanut butter?
? Ever bought a cheap tool or appliance, only to replace it a year later because its low price was matched by its low quality?
? Ever tried to save money by staying in a cheap hotel, only to discover the management kept their prices down by not investing in bug control?
A lot of things come at a high price, but they’re worth it.
I think I’d put forgiveness in that “high priced” category. But even though it can be costly, forgiveness is a great investment in any relationship. Forgiveness is the stuff of healthy marriages, healthy families, and healthy churches. Relationships grow when we let go of a hurt, a wound, or a critical remark. But it’s not easy, is it?
Let’s take a close look at Jesus’ story today of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 and let the word of God work its way into our hearts, removing any remnants of resentment and unforgiveness.
Let’s look at Matthew 18: 21-22. Jesus used a parable to teach about forgiveness in response to a curious question that Peter asked. Since Peter was a leader among the 12 apostles, he often spoke for the group. All of the disciples may have had this same question on their minds, but we know that Peter was the one who asked if there was a quota on grace. How many times are we called to let the same person slide off the hook. That’s a legitimate question. READ Matt. 18:21-22.
So, after Peter asks the question to Jesus, he proposes his own answer. Peter answered the question with the number 7. After all, that’s a good answer, since 7 is the number of completeness. The rabbis of that day challenged people to overlook an offense up to 3 times. Three strikes and you’re out. To Peter’s way of thinking, he was being generous. Forgiving someone 7 times more than doubled the cultural expectation for grace.
I wonder how many times you would forgive someone. From comments I have heard, we think we do good if we forgive someone just once and even then we find that hard to do.
So, Jesus must have stunned Peter with His answer. His answer has been interpreted two different ways. Some say “Seventy times seven.” Some say seventy-seven times. Either way, it’s way more than we would ever consider doing.
Either route you take, the point is perfectly clear: The grace you offer to others should have no limits. Few people are ever offended 50, 60, or 70 times by the same person in a short time. So, Jesus is exaggerating here for effect. He is creating this ridiculous scenario to capture the attention of the disciples. Essentially, He is saying, “Even if your brother insults you a 78th time or a 491st time, forgive and let it go. Don’t keep track, just keep forgiving.
Many of you recognize the name Corrie ten Boom. Corrie ten Boom was a woman who lived through the nightmare of a Nazi concentration camp. She was the only one in her family who made it out alive. In that hellish place, she was humiliated, especially in the delousing shower where the women were watched by the leering guards. By the grace of God, Corrie survived it all and found it in her heart to forgive—or so she thought.
Corrie traveled extensively to share her testimony of God’s forgiveness. One Sunday in a church in Munich, after sharing her story, a man approached her with his hand outstretched. “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea! I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?”
She recognized his face instantly. This was the leering, mocking face of one of the cruelest guards in the shower stall. Her hand froze by her side. Coldness clutched her heart. Ashamed at herself, she prayed, “Jesus, help me! I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” As she prayed, her hand became unfrozen. The ice of hate melted, and her hand went out. “I forgive you, brother!...With all my heart!” She forgave as she was forgiven.”