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In this devotional series, I am focusing on questions posed to Jesus.  The first question came from a rich young ruler.  He asked Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The disciples asked the second question.  They wanted to know who sinned that the man in John 9 was born blind, him or his parents. The tired question comes from a particular disciple, Peter.  His question centered around forgiveness.  Notice Peter’s question in the following verses.

Matthew 18:21-22

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.[1]

The word “then” in verse 21 indicates that something preceded Peter’s question.  What was it?  Is it possible the events prior to Peter’s question actually promoted Peter to ask Jesus about the number of times to forgive?  Well, I believe that’s exactly what happened.  The preceding events pushed Peter to ask this question.  That is, In Matthew 18:15-20, the Lord spoke about offences and what should be done when known sin occurs.  When a brother sins against another, the two of them should discuss the matter.  If this does not resolve the matter, two or three witnesses should be taken along for a clear testimony.  Finally, the matter was to be brought before the congregation, if the offending person does not recognize his error.  “This procedure was standard Jewish custom; the Dead Sea Scrolls, the rabbis and others demand that one begin with private reproof/rebuke/reprimand. Publicly shaming someone unnecessarily was considered sinful, and Jewish teachers stressed the importance of receiving reproof, hear and receive correction.”[2]

So, it is after this teaching that Peter approached Jesus with our third question.  I am impressed with Peter.  He is close enough to Jesus to ask Him a question.  How close are you to Jesus?  Are you close enough to ask Him the things that are pressing in your heart?  Well, Peter is and I am so glad we have his question.  Again, he asked Jesus “how many time will my brother, a fellow believer, do me wrong and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  The key word here is forgive.  Before exploring forgiveness, let say a couple of things about unforgivness.  Unforgiveness is refusing to let go of an offense.  It keeps one in a state of anger, resentment, and bitterness.  The danger of unforgiveness is it is like cancer that eats away at the very soul of a person.  It produces stress, suppresses the immune system, and often causes depression.  Clearly, we do not need the negative things unforgiveness brings to our health and emotions.

As we try to understand forgiveness, keep in mind that forgiveness does not mean that any wrongs done to you were acceptable.  It does not diminish the evil done against you.  Forgiveness is not a denial of what has happened.  Finally, forgiveness is not weakness.  Actually, it is the most powerful thing you can do.  Refusing to forgive allows Satan to continue to hurt you; forgiveness stops that destructive power of Satan.

We have seen the dangers of unforgiveness and what forgiveness is not.  So, what is forgiveness?  In short, to forgive is to pardon, cease to feel resentment, and to cancel a debt.  When we forgive, we choose to release the one who offended us.  We choose to stop wanting to get them back or cause them to hurt.  The most important thing for us to remember about forgiveness is it is a choice.  We must choose to forgive.  To illustrate forgiveness, Jesus tells a powerful story in the following passage.  This story is connected to Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question.  Jesus wants us to forgive without limits.  Here is Jesus’ story.

Matthew 18:23-35

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”[3]

Jesus’ story and application are amazing.  There are six things I want to highlight.  One, forgiveness is a kingdom principle.  It does not come for the world or the world’s system.  Two, we all owe more than we are able to pay.  All of us have offended God.  We need His forgiveness.  The man in verse 27 owed $12 million dollars, an impossible amount to repay.  Three, verse 27 teaches us that God pieties, releases, and forgives.  That is, He is lovingly merciful.  He unties us and He pardons.  Four, we have the tendency to be slow to forgive or even unforgiving.  The fellow servant in verses 28-30 owed only $16.  However, the one he owed refused to show mercy or pardon.  Five, unforgiveness is never hidden from God.  He knows when we do not forgive.  Six, we must forgive.

In closing, is there someone who has wrong you that you need to forgive?  Perhaps you are the offender and need the forgiveness of another.  All of need forgiveness and we all need to forgive.  This really hits home with me.  In 2018, I had to forgive the person who killed my oldest sister.  By God’s grace and pardon He extended to me, I was able to forgive.  If you allow God’s grace to be embedded in you, you will be able to forgive, just as you have been forgiven.

By: Bishop Arthur F. Mosley

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 18:21–22.

[2] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 18:15.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 18:23–35.