FORGIVENESS is ‘CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION’: Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matt 18:21-22)
Peter asked Jesus a sincere question of how often he should forgive a brother who sinned against him. He probably thought he was showing unusual grace by suggesting seven as an outside limit. Actually Peter was being very generous in his willingness to forgive up to seven times. The traditional limit was three times, possibly because of the refrain in Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6. Peter had gone beyond the religious leaders’ limit of forgiving an offense three times by suggesting one could be forgiven seven times. However, Jesus raised the level to “seventy times seven,” a hyperbole meaning no limits. He did not intend us to understand it as literal 490 times; this was a figurative way of saying “indefinitely”, which is that forgiveness really knows no boundaries.
When any brother wrongs us, we should forgive him immediately in our hearts. That will free us from a bitter and wounded spirit. After we have forgiven him in our hearts, we should go to him and rebuke him in love, hoping to lead him to confession. As soon as he apologizes and confesses his sin, we should tell him that he is forgiven. This is God’s instruction to us concerning this matter: "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)
“He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.” - George Herbert
Let us understand that unlimited forgiveness must characterize the true disciple. Jesus asks us to forgive no matter what the attitude of the offender. He means limitless forgiveness (see 1 Cor. 13:4, 5). God has freely forgiven our debt; therefore, we also should practice forgiveness in that liberal fashion. We are to forgive others because God has forgiven us (Col. 3:13), and He has forgiven us at great cost to Himself!
"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph 4:32)