Summary: Believers should understand the reasons for practicing unlimited forgiveness.


Matthew 18:21-32


ILLUSTRATION SOURCE: Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace

Butt-prints in the Sand,

One night, I had a wondrous dream;

One set of footprints there was seen.

The footprints of my precious Lord,

But mine were not along the shore.

But then some stranger prints appeared,

And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"

"Those prints are large and round and neat,

But, Lord, they are too big for feet."

"My child," He said in sombre tones.

"For miles I carried you alone.

I challenged you to walk in faith,

But you refused and made me wait.

You disobeyed, you would not grow,

The walk-of-faith you would not know.

So I got tired and fed up,

And there I dropped you on your butt,

Because in life, there comes a time,

When one must fight, and one must climb,

When one must rise and take a stand,

Or leave their butt prints in the sand."

One of the areas in our Christian life that we must learn is that of forgiving others. Much of the problems in relationship can be resolved if we only practice the virtue of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a powerful tool that God gave His children to use when needed. We should be humble enough to grant unlimited interpersonal forgiveness. Let us find out why as we read Matthew 18:21-32.


Matthew 18:15-20 talks about the process of dealing with the person who sinned against another. Jesus emphasized the need to be reconciled with an offender and win the person back into the relationship. The disciples, knowing the demands of the process, would like to know how many times they should forgive one another.

It was the practice of the Jews that a brother might be forgiven a repeated sin three times but on the fourth, there is no forgiveness. Therefore Peter thought that his suggestion is already gracious enough. Jesus however emphasized that they should not set a limit on the frequency of forgiving one another. Instead interpersonal forgiveness should be unlimited. The idea of seventy times seven implies unlimited and wholehearted forgiveness. (vv. 22, 35)

Why should we grant unlimited interpersonal forgiveness?

1. God wants to release us from the curse of sin. (vv. 22, 33)

Our sinfulness affected not only our relationship with God but with men as well. God forgave us so we can be restored in our relationship with Him. In addition, he wanted us to practice forgiveness to one another. The forgiveness we received and experienced should be shared with those who wronged us. As humans, we commit relational sins and forgiving spirit is one of the means by which reconciliation will happen. Sin destroys relationship and forgiveness restores them. See Matthew 6:12.

ILLUSTRATION One of the simple but great inventions of man is the eraser. It acknowledges the fact that no one is perfect. It also reminds us that there is hope and new possibility for those who mess up their lives and relationships with others. Forgiveness enables us to experience freedom, peace, and inner joy.

Warren Wiersbe said that “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart. If we refuse to forgive others, then we are only imprisoning ourselves and causing our own torment. Some of the most miserable people I have met in my ministry have been people who would not forgive others. They lived only to imagine ways to punish these people who had wronged them. But they were really only punishing themselves.”

Unforgiving spirit results to other sins – anger, critical spirit, bitterness, and indifference, not to mention the various illnesses associated with unforgiveness. See Ephesians 4:30-32. We reveal the true condition of our hearts by the way we treat others. The context of this paragraph is forgiveness between brothers in Christ but we know that the principles apply to other relationships.

Whom do you need to forgive today? Perhaps you need to forgive your fellow church member, your parents, your siblings, your co-workers, your spouse, and your relatives. Release yourself from the prison of unforgiving heart and from the curse of sin. How do we forgive?

a. Understand the meaning of forgiveness – to cover, to erase, and to send away the sins of the offender. Therefore when we forgive we are actually giving the persons a clean sheet of paper – we release the person from the penalty of sin.

ILLUSTRATION Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me. —Archibald Hart

b. Understand that forgiveness is not toleration but preservation – we forgive because we would like to recognize the person’s admission of guilt and the desire to change. We forgive because we would like to encourage the person to start a new but right way of living and relating with us thereby resulting to preservation of the relationship.

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