Seven Times Seventy

Matthew 18:21-35

21 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?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

At the heart of the question, “How do I measure up?” is the feeling of inadequacy.  Too many times, those feelings come from the careless inconsideration of others.  As my good friend says, “Most people are too lazy to intentionally hurt your feelings.”  On occasion, we feel the pain of unintentional (or even intentional) exclusion.  This leaves us asking if we are good enough and searching to see how we measure up.

In this illustration, the master has received forgiveness.  Yet, he does not offer that forgiveness to others.  This leads to to the Father’s anger.  It’s so much easier to see how others have hurt us than to see how we have hurt others.  We expect to be forgiven, but we don’t want to forgive.  Instead, we want to embrace that hurt and anger.  God calls us to forgive seventy times seven times.  For me, it’s hard to get to seven.

Father God, give us a willing spirit of forgiveness.  Help us leave behind the careless words of thoughtless people that we love.  Help us to remember that we have also been careless with our words and that God’s forgiveness has been extended to us.  We then, must forgive again (and again, and again, and again…).


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