Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy times seven times.’ (Mt. 18:21-22)
I had had an important working relationship abruptly end. When I saw the man’s text demanding a call, I knew that something was radically wrong. When we did talk, he recounted every time I had gotten crosswise with him and with others on his team. As he listed my infractions, it felt like he was making a case against me.
One of the sad things about this conversation was that I wasn’t aware that these moments existed, much less were being counted and stored up. If he had ever shared any of those moments with me, I would have had a chance to say, “I’m sorry,” or, “I apologize,” or, “Please forgive me.” I’m willing to make amends because I often fall short and make mistakes.
Jesus says to Peter and to us that we need to forgive “seventy times seven times.” When Jesus gives this equation, He isn’t saying that we need to forgive others 490 times, but times without end. Jesus implores us to forgive profusely and constantly because that’s the only way to maintain love or any important relationships.
If we’re storing up a list of infractions, if we’re building up a case to shame someone, or if we’re looking forward to being an accuser, I encourage us to stop now! We either need to forgive them, or we need to share our hurt or unhappiness with them with the hope of understanding and reconciliation.
All of our work with forgiveness—either in asking for it or in giving it—stems from the forgiveness and grace Jesus offers to us. The best way to honor His grace is to give grace to others.
- Have you ever stored up someone else’s infractions with the intent of making a case against them? Since your intent wasn’t reconciliation, understanding, or forgiveness, what was driving you?
- Grace-receivers need to be grace-givers. How well do you receive grace? How well do you give it?
- Is there someone you need to forgive? Someone with whom you need to make amends? Do you need to forgive yourself? If you answer yes to any of those questions, what are you waiting for?