Summary: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”
Theme: Not seven, but seventy times seven
Text: Gen. 50:15-21; Rom. 14:1-12; Matt. 18:21-35
One of the great themes of biblical revelation is that of forgiveness. This is not surprising since from the time man sinned by disobeying God his greatest need has been for forgiveness. God gave the Law to reveal sin and the need for forgiveness. He instituted the sacrifice of animals under the Old Covenant to forgive sin but these sacrifices were never sufficient and had to be repeated over and over again “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins”. (Heb. 10:4) These sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ at Calvary that would atone for sin forever and would never need to be repeated again. His sacrifice was more than enough to pay the price of sin so that our past, present and future sins were forgiven. God has forgiven us is the best news we have to share. Why then do we have a problem forgiving another person? If it cost Christ His life for us to be forgiven should we also not forgive as we are forgiven? Should you not forgive, in the word of Christ, not seven but seventy times seven?
Every person inherits Adams sinful nature for in Adam “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”? (Rom 3:23). We all need God’s forgiveness and God “so loved us, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16) Forgiveness is a gift from God because Christ paid the price for sin in our place by shedding His blood
For “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. (Heb. 9:22) Christ died to give us eternal life “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Rom 6:23) Christ gave His life to save us from destruction.
Our forgiveness does not depend on anything we have done but on what Christ has done for “By grace are we saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God”. (Eph. 2:8) God has forgiven us so much that we have no reason not to forgive. No amount of hurt should make us forget God’s forgiveness to make us retaliate in return. Joseph had every reason to be hurt. His own brothers sold him into slavery when he was still a teenager. He was wrongly accused by the wife of Potiphar and put in prison. In spite of all he suffered Joseph forgave them. When his brothers expected him to take his revenge on them for what they had done to him after their father’s death they did not know the power of forgiveness. Joseph had forgiven them and told them that he was not in the place of God and that what they had meant for evil against him God meant it for good. He told them that God used them to save many people during the time of famine. Forgiveness allows God to turn around what man meant for evil for good. Who do we need to forgive today?
Forgiving is our response to God’s forgiveness. We forgive because God has forgiven us and to forgive is to be like Him. He paid the price for our forgiveness by His death on the cross. Our response to such forgiveness can only be to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us”. (Ephesians 4:32) We forgive because we have been forgiven much. God has forgiven us and demands we forgive one another. By forgiving we understand more fully the cost of our forgiveness and the need to stop erecting barriers of resentment, hate or revenge between God and us. Forgiveness is for our own good. God forgave us all our sin so we also need to be ready to forgive every sin and not keep count. No matter how often someone sins against us we are to continue forgiving, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
The demand for justice is deeply rooted in every society and society is troubled when crime goes unpunished. This makes forgiveness difficult as it often appears unfair and against our natural desire for justice. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but enlightened self interest. As one forgives he releases and frees himself. To forgive is to set the prisoner free only to realise the prisoner was you. When we fail to forgive we remain bound to the people and what it is we are unable to forgive. But when we forgive, we do not only set the other person free, we also set ourselves free.
Forgiving one another pleases God and gives us access to His presence and blessings. When we value the sacrifice Christ made for our forgiveness we cannot help but forgive. It is very easy to forgive if we know how much we have been forgiven. God has forgiven us all our past, present and future sins. Forgiving one another attracts the favour of God. It is proof that we are His beloved children who are always ready to do what is pleasing to our Father. Forgiving one another proves that we are righteous with the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness compels us to forgive as we enjoy the blessings of God.