Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 18:22
“Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:22
Jesus here is laying out a principle which is important for us to follow. Before our focus verse, Jesus had just been teaching about the sins of a brother, regarding what to do in the event a brother does sin. Jesus replies by saying, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17. He was laying out the idea that we should do what we can to restore a brother if possible so that they will remain a follower.
“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21. Peter here is making this a more personal issue. He is not asking about if a brother sins, but if a brother should sin against him. Peter was using the tradition of the Jews regarding forgiveness. The Jews taught that a man was to forgive another three times, but not the fourth. Peter here is extending the number to seven, basically saying should forgiveness be exercised to this extent.
However, Jesus throws him a curve in our focus verse. He doesn’t say seven, or even an extravagant number such as fourteen or even twenty-one times. He says we are to forgive our brother seventy times seven, which calculates to four hundred and ninety times. This goes well beyond the tradition of the Jews. What Jesus is basically saying is that no matter how many times he sins against us and asks for forgiveness, we are to forgive him.
Now it is the duty of someone who sins against us to ask for forgiveness. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3. However, we have a duty if our brother repents and asks us for forgiveness, and that is to forgive. As many times as he sins against us and asks forgiveness. And why is this? Because this is what Christ does with us. No matter what we do and however many times, He will forgive us. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9. There are no limits noted here, therefore we should have no limits if we are to be like Christ.
This can be a very difficult thing to do. If someone does the same thing over and over again to us and then repents and asks for forgiveness, we are obligated to forgive. If they do this, there is obviously an issue with that person, and in that, we leave it in God’s hands. But we must forgive them. I believe we should pray and ask God to change them so that they do not persist, and we should admonish them so that they are aware of what they are doing. But we cannot withhold forgiveness.
I want to encourage us if we are in that place where repeated sins are done against us, we should heartily pray for them and work with them where they allow us to. This is a loving act, to repeatedly forgive the same thing from the same person. But as stated above, this is what God does for us. Therefore, we are to go and do likewise.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.