“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?’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” (Matthew 18:21-22)
In our gospel reading, Jesus teaches a lesson on the necessity of forgiveness. He told the disciples, and us, that we have a duty to forgive, a responsibility to forgive those who have offended or sinned against us, primarily those within the fellowship of the Kingdom of God. Wouldn’t this agitate you? If someone cursed and belittled you seventy-seven times in one day, you would have to forgive him. You could do this once, maybe even two or three times, but by the fourth time most of us would be ready to smack that person around. Maybe you have felt that something someone did to you was unforgivable, or someone did something evil to one of your loved ones, your wife, your son or daughter, your parents, or perhaps a friend. How would you feel toward a person who abused your child? How would you feel about someone who has murdered or accidentally killed someone you love? How do you feel about the President of the United States? Do you think to yourself “I can’t forgive that person? That person did something that was unforgivable?” Despite how we may feel about forgiveness, Jesus tells us that we have an obligation to forgive all those who injure us.
What Jesus wants us to do is what he did for us. Didn’t He forgive us while we were still sinners? Didn’t He forgive those who crucified Him? He did not wait for our response before He took steps to forgive us. Since we are forgiven in this manner, we ought also to do the same.
Forgiving means that I relinquish my desire to exact judgment. When we withhold forgiveness it is almost always because we want revenge or justice. But that justice has already been satisfied on the cross. As far as revenge I must let go of it for the debt owed me cannot be repaid. Which of the offending party’s sins were not forgiven at the cross? If we continued to withhold forgiveness, we make a mockery of the cross. God has forgiven us our sins which are infinite offenses against an Almighty God. The sins others commit against us are minuscule in comparison. If God can forgive us, He can enable us to forgive others.