Peter is always anxious to please the Lord and so when he approaches Jesus regarding the question of how many times we need to forgive those who have sinned against us, he is very confident that he has the right answer.
"Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Peter must have felt very proud in this moment, thinking that Jesus would surely acknowledge Peter's great sense of mercy. But then, as He often does, Jesus upsets the apple cart.
"I say to you, not seven times but seven times seventy."
Peter must have felt very foolish in that moment for what Christ was teaching Peter and all of us who follow Him, is that in order to count ourselves as true disciples of Christ, we must be limitless in our forgiveness of others just as our Father in heaven is toward us.
Most of us yearns for forgiveness from someone we have wronged at one time or another. It is within our nature to have no barriers stand between ourselves and others. We crave the forgiveness of others because we know that we are all connected on a deeply spiritual level.
However, when it comes to forgiving others, it is often quite difficult to do so. Why? There are probably countless reasons for this. One might be pride. In order to forgive someone, humility must be practiced. If we are not humble in our approach to another, then we cannot possibly open ourselves up to forgiveness for that would mean we would have to admit our sinfulness to another.
Another reason it may be so difficult to forgive is because the hurt inflicted upon us by the other party may run so deep that we may never heal enough to truly reach out in mercy to the offender with an offering of our forgiveness.
Society is not good at forgiving others. We are great when it comes to vengeance, but not so great when it comes to mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. We think retribution means justice when all it really means is bitter vengeance. This has no place in the heart that yearns for Jesus.
Jesus also teaches us that we must be willing to go beyond simple forgiveness. We must love one another as He did. We must be willing to make the same sacrifice as He did in order for us to bear worthy and healthy fruit. Others, who are not Christian, must be able to see us as Christians through our actions. We must forgive our enemies first and foremost. Jesus also taught us that it was worth very little to forgive those whom we love. That's easy! But for those who have wounded us ever so deeply, it is very difficult to forgive them feeling that the pain they inflicted is too great to overcome. Words are fine but do not have the weight of those actions.
Jesus forgave us with His all. Through His brutal passion and crucifixion, He gave His life for us freely and openly simply because it is our Father's intention to have all His children home in His kingdom one day. This requires Jesus to forgive us an infinite number of times even if we do the same thing over and over. We are not asked to do the impossible by the Master, but, rather, we are asked to become fully human in all our frailties and vulnerabilities our of pure love for God.
Forgiveness is not an option. Jesus has not left it up to us to decide who needs to be forgiven. If we do not, this is a sure sign of a hardened heart, one that may be, in some way, incapable of responding to the Spirit in his life.
Pray that you may learn to forgive--truly forgive--all those who may have hurt you throughout the course of your life whether you're young and just starting out in life, or whether you are in the twilight of life. Without forgiveness, there can be no salvation!