Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.Matthew 18:21-22
In this passage, Peter is agreeing to what Jesus has taught about regaining a brother but presents the case that sometimes people offend habitually. Jesus responds with a large and very exact number of times that we should forgive. He is basically saying that we are to forgive every time.
Before we get upset with Peter an his impetuousness, we probably should realize that we think exactly like him a lot of the time, particularly when it comes to the issue of forgiveness. When we are offended it hurts. We do not want to forgive because it hurts. But Jesus commands that we forgive. Many times we do not feel forgiving. But Jesus did not command a feeling, He commanded an action. We may feel that the other person does not deserve forgiveness. But Jesus did not give conditions of worth, He just commanded to forgive. And Jesus is not going to command something that is impossible for us to do. Consider this teaching from Luke:
And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.Luke 17:4-10
The disciples thought what Jesus was saying was too difficult for them so they asked for more faith. Jesus’s answer shows that they and all born again children of God already have enough faith. They just need to exercise it. In fact, we need to realize that it is our duty to forgive – every time.
There are many arguments people make for not forgiving. I will just address the ones I mentioned above, but know this, there is no excuse to unforgiveness. It’s simple disobedience!
When we are hurt by an offense and don’t want to forgive, we need to remember the pain that our Savior endured for us on the cross so that we would be forgiven.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.Isaiah 53:5
When we do not feel like forgiving, we need to realize that we will never feel like doing anything difficult until we are actually doing it.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2
If we think that the other person does not deserve our forgiveness, we need to remember that we do not deserve what Christ has done for us!
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.Romans 5:6
That last point covers any other argument that we might make. If we require more of another person than Christ required of us then we are asking too much. Jesus did not ask us to meet any requirements before He would die for us. He just did it.
We just need to forgive because God commands it and we are forgiven by Him. Oh, and let us consider that exact number of 490 times. If we are keeping count, are we really forgiving them each time?
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.Ephesians 4:32