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?
Jesus was very good at stretching natural human thinking. When Peter said up to seven times, he had already stretched his imagination to his limit. Hebrew culture said forgive up to three times so Peter doubles this and then adds one to come up with seven!
He must have been ‘knocked over’ when he heard Jesus’ response – up to 70 times seven (Matthew 18:22) – in other words, all the time. Grace always continues to forgive. Your current capacity to forgive is the capacity of your revelation of grace.
I’m sure if we all thought long and hard enough, we could probably think of a situation where someone truly didn’t deserve forgiveness. But the truth is neither did we deserve God’s forgiveness.
Maybe you think you haven’t been all that bad, especially compared to other people, but once again the truth is, there is no such thing as a “partial sinner”... all of us were “great sinners”. The issue is not what we did or didn’t do, but that there is nothing humanity could ever do to save ourselves and stand justified in the presence of God. Only Jesus could do this for us.
So when someone has wronged you, grace reminds you:“I did not deserve God’s forgiveness, but He still forgave me in Christ!” So I can forgive this person in Christ also.
Jesus shares a great parable that describes the attitude of forgiveness that we need to carry.
In Matthew 18:23-28 it talks about a servant who owed his Master 10,000 bags of gold. He begged for more time promising to pay it back. “Pay back” is a picture of religion, i.e. “an eye for an eye” – but the Master knew he couldn’t pay it back even in a few lifetimes so he canceled it. This is what God has done for the sins of humanity – He has wiped away humanity's debt forever through His Son. There is no amount of payment that we can ever make in “gold bags” or “good works” to make ourselves right with God.
But look at what this forgiven servant does.
He found one of his servants who owed him 100 coins. He grabs him by the throat and demands he “pay it back” and refuses to cancel the tiny debt. This servant has had his huge debt forgiven but his mindset still hasn’t changed. We would have expected him to “pay it forward”, but if you have a “payback” mentality – it is very, very hard to break.
Likewise, if you carry a “payback” mentality in your relationship with God, you are going to keep dragging up all the things you have done wrong and try to justify yourself through good works and penance. You are also going to find it very difficult to forgive other people because you have not learned to receive forgiveness.
Romans 13:8 says“let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another…”
Right now, look to the Lord and thank Him for what he has done for you – you are forgiven, you are loved and He wants to fill you with His love so you can pay it forward to all you meet.