How Many Times Shall I Forgive?

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

~ Matthew 18:21

We’ve all heard it and perhaps even said it ourselves a time or two, which is the age-old saying, “I can forgive you, but I will never forget what you did.” Let’s face it, when someone wrongs us, it hurts us at our core, and the greater the offense, the hurt runs deeper and is long-lasting. The pain we endure reminds us of how someone has hurt us, whether yesterday, months, or even years ago. 

That is not a new concept born in the modern era, for even apostle Peter once believed that enough is enough when being hurt by others. Peter once asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?” It’s easy to see in Peter’s question that even forgiving someone up to seven times was pushing it in his opinion; “how many times Lord shall my brother sin against me and I “still” forgive him?” 

Jesus answered, saying, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Now we know that equation comes to 490 times that we must forgive someone for hurting us. However, the intent is that the forgiver will have lost count long before reaching 490. If a person ever counts 490 times for forgiving someone, the person never truly forgave in the first place.

Jesus further shares a parable about a servant who owed the King a large sum of money, and when the King sought repayment, the servant could not pay up. The servant pleaded for mercy, and the King forgave the servant and released him from his debt. When the servant found a fellow servant who owed him money but could not pay, he imprisoned the man. When the King learned of his actions, he called him a wicked servant saying, “I forgave you all of your debt. Should you not have also forgiven your fellow servant?” So the King imprisoned the servant until he repaid all that he owed.

In closing, Jesus said, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” The heart is the key. You see, it’s easy for us to forgive someone on the outside with a false smile while truly despising that person in our hearts. Genuine forgiveness comes from the heart, for how can we ask our Heavenly Father to forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive others? 

The truth is we cannot because Jesus reveals in the model prayer that forgiveness requires one to be a forgiver. Jesus said, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Therefore, let us continually offer genuine forgiveness from our hearts to those who hurt us and extend forgiveness and a path to reconciliation because our Heavenly Father does the same for us daily.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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