Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ – Matthew 18:21
God’s forgiveness is unlimited in this earth. What a joy to know that no one has out sinned God’s love, or done things that God cannot forgive. But at times our forgiveness for others especially in the Church is very limited. When we do not fully understand the grace of God and how much forgiveness God has shown us then we are willing to forgive others very little also. When we see our sins are not very bad, then we will be able to judge others sins as worse. Peter the Disciple of Jesus here shares he astonishment of God’s long-suffering to restore just one believer in the Church. Peter’s way of thinking was if they did not fit the mark then its better they are not with us, but Jesus gave the importance to the lessor and the weakest. How many times have we cast out a brother or sister from our circle of friends because of their sin or weakness they had? The picture Jesus is giving here is to allow God’s forgiveness and heart for his “little ones” to be in our own hearts. Peter thought he was very good and righteous to tell the Lord, he was willing to forgive someone seven times! But our Lord replies with “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). In other words he is saying Peter you do not understand yet but you will one day soon, my forgiveness is so great and unlimited just like my Heavenly Father.
Watchman Nee says, “Frequently the enemy entices Christians to harbor an unforgiving spirit – a very common symptom indeed among God’s children. Such bitterness and fault-finding and enmity inflict a severe blow upon spiritual life.” Our Lord speaks of how to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and uses the picture of a child. My friend, reading this, are you like a child being able to forgive another person a great crime and hurt in your life? Are you able to see unforgiveness as a great sin and it better that your arm or leg were cut off then to hold such a bitter grudge? No matter how godly we are or how much progress we have made on the Christian life, if we are not able to forgive others as Christ forgave then we will start to be greatly hindered in our progress towards Christ-likeness. Peter saw it as impossible to forgive so much, yet when he failed the Lord and denied him three times, then he began to understand the Lord’s heart for those who fail. Jesus asks us this question today, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17). If we love the Lord and understand his grace and love we will be able to help his little ones, forgive their failings, and restore them and help them grow. Such a heart is not just for a pastor and leader in God’s Church but for all members to share the heart of the Great Shepherd to see forgiveness and restoration happen. God’s grace and love is like an ocean and his forgiveness like the bottomless depths, if you have been a partaker of it, you will show it to others.