Summary: How often should we forgive? Let’s explore the difficulty and necessity of forgiving from the heart. Let’s look at what Jesus taught about forgiving in Matthew 18:21-35 and Hosea 1-3.
How often should we forgive? Let’s explore the difficulty and necessity of compassion and mercy, forgiveness from the heart. Let’s look at what Jesus taught about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35.
How Often Forgive
Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
How often must we be abused and bruised by others and still forgive? Peter’s suggestion seemed generous compared to an ancient Jewish idea of begging for forgiveness three times. How often ought we to ask God's forgiveness? If the answer is only 7 times, then we are all in trouble.
Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Forgiveness often accompanies deep personal pain. It’s a choice, despite pain and despite lack of trust. Holding grudges hurts us deep in our souls. Forgiving blesses us forever. Jesus' answer, 70x7, means hyperbolically don’t keep count. If we have to keep track perhaps we have not really forgiven at all.
The Unforgiving Servant
Matthew 18:23-34 A king’s servant asked for debt forgiveness and received it. He then violently confronted a fellow servant, who owed him a much smaller amount, and had him thrown into prison. The king was angry at this lack of compassion. God demands that we, the forgiven, also compassionately and mercifully forgive.
The Gift of Forgiveness
Matthew 18:35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Forgiveness is a very difficult task. We must differentiate between trust and forgiveness. Trust is not demanded. Trust takes a long time to regain, but forgiveness is demanded. We may pray, “Father, help me! I’m angry at sin and I don’t trust weak humanity, but I have decided to forgive.”
Hosea and Gomer
How difficult would it be to forgive an adulterous spouse? Would you take them back, or more would your rescue them from sexual slavery and empty your bank account to do so? That's exactly what Hosea did for his wayward wife.
Hosea 1:2-3 When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
Hosea went through a lot of heartache because God’s prophesy of Gomer’s unfaithfulness came true.
Hosea 2:16-17 “And it shall be, in that day,” Says the Lord, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, And they shall be remembered by their name no more.
Gomer’s adulterous ways pictured Israel’s idolatrous unfaithfulness to God. Hosea’s pain pictures God’s pain when we are unfaithful. Yet, God looks forward to the day when His Bride repents of false worship.
Hosea 2:19-20 “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the Lord.
God looks forward to the day when people repent and become faithful to Him.
Hosea 3:1-2 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.
Gomer ended up as a sex slave. Hosea rescued his unfaithful wife from the sex traffickers, paying all the money he had and the rest of the price in produce.
The rocky marriage of Hosea and Gomer is a love story picturing God’s love for His often unfaithful Bride, the Church. Jesus loves us, forgives our unfaithfulness, and gives all to save us from ourselves. Let’s now remain faithful to Him forever.
What if we refuse to forgive? God doesn’t give us that option. Peter wanted a limit. With hyperbolic language, Jesus taught that compassion and mercy must last a long, long time from the heart. We pray like Jesus on the cross, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:13)
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)