ForGiving Generously

Last week in my series working through the Gospel of Matthew I mentioned Jesus’ response to Peter’s question asking how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him.(Matt 18:21-23) Peter characteristically proposed an answer he thought Jesus would be pleased with – a generous seven times!  Jesus quickly countered with, “seventy times that!”

The translation from the Greek can read “seven times seven”, “seventy times seven” and How many times?“seventy seven times seven.” Thank you for those who pointed out my appalling maths.
(For those interested:
7 x 7 = 49
7 x 70 = 490
7 x 77 = 539)

But the total is not the main point. Jesus’ aim was to make the point that there are no limits to be set on forgiveness.  To make sure the point was made he went on to tell a parable – the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35.  There was a man who owed an enormous sum of money – the equivalent of 20 years of fulltime wages. He is forgiven this enormous debt but could not bring himself to forgive his neighbour who had a very small debt in comparison, about 20 days of wages.

The contrast is great and Jesus’ point is clear. Peter has been forgiven a great debt by God, and any sin against him pales into insignificance compared to God’s generosity.

God has forgiven us a debt we can never pay. He has forgiven us our sin through the obedience of Jesus dying on a cross. We who have been forgiven such a great debt must forgive those who sin against us. How many times? Seven? “No,” says Jesus, “you never stop forgiving!”

In fact, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray implies that if we do not forgive our fellow man we cannot expect God to forgive us. As we accept God’s mercy to us, we pass that mercy on to others.

Let us pray that God will teach us how to be kind and forgive others as God has forgiven us.

Stephen L Baxter

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4 thoughts on “ForGiving Generously

  1. Rosa Koster says:

    Am I the only one who comments on your posts? Do you mind?
    Love the first bit. Last 3 paras – If I read it as it is, I’m still left with feeling of unworthiness and hopelessness, like somehow its still up to me to perform.
    Obedience? I reckon it was more love for us and a God’s desire to draw us into relationship with him. Obedience is what’s required for servants, not the affectionate relationship of father to son.
    Forgiveness of sin? What if I like my sin? I don’t like shame though? Shame is something that causes me to hide from God, and put the old mask on so you wont see the real me. If I truly understood God doesn’t factor my sin and shame into our relationship then I’d understand how much he loves me. It changes the “must” forgive to freedom to I am able love others cause I’m no longer living with shame… I know I’m loved.

  2. Hi Rosa,
    I do get a few comments to my posts, but I think you have probably responded the most.

    You are right, God’s forgiveness is unbounded and unlimited and it is a wonderful thing. Encountering the depth and breadth of that grace is a special moment for all of us and brings us to a place of awe and wonder of God’s love for us.

    So what a privilege it is that God calls us to be part of that unlimited grace and forgiveness and pass it on to others. We can join with God in this wonderful activity. Yes, it is a responsibility, and a ‘command’ but no more a command than the command to love my wife. And loving her is never an obligation or a chore, but a privilege.

    I think we all wrestle with the real tension between the reality of God’s forgiveness and our ‘responsibilities’ as a forgiven person.
    Sadly because of our brokenness since the Fall, we react badly to God’s commands. Even though there is nothing wrong them they feel like constrictions to us (see Pauls argument in Romans 7). But that doesn’t make the command bad, it just reflects our fallen nature.

    I hope that is helpful

    Stephen

  3. Rosa Koster says:

    If we have an appeasement view of the cross, then its God paying for our sins, sacrificing his own son. How is that any different to the false gods requiring child sacrifice? I’m not dumb enough to know Jesus taking the punishment for my sin is a good thing, and I don’t have to go to hell, but it doesn’t leave me with much affection towards the Father. If I do the wrong thing, or don’t forgive or love my neighbour as commanded, then am I guaranteed of life after death? It leaves me with the impression that its still up to me to perform, to work and to act. I end up living religiously and frustrated.
    We can argue that to live anything else is to be in rebellion.
    I don’t think either of these are what God wanted.
    I believe God wanted us to live in relationship with him and the point of the cross was to give us that opportunity. He didn’t take our punishment for sin, but he cured it. Jesus was the only one who could become our sin and not die while he was bearing God’s wrath to cure it. When Jesus says on the cross “it is finished”, it truly is finished! I don’t believe for one moment that the Father separated himself from the Son; I can believe that Jesus felt abandoned becoming my sin and shame, but he also said “my Father never leaves me” and 2 Corinthians 5 says the Father was reconciling himself to the world. This is the tip of an iceberg of a slightly different interpretation of the cross, and its left me endeared to God, seeing him as an affectionate Father who I want to be with.
    Now its love that changes everything.
    Even reading the Bible has changed. Its become a story of God revealing himself, rather than a book of laws.
    Living in the world has changed – freedom to be where God wants me in any moment, to love anyone he puts in my path.
    I now know I can only love others to the degree I know God’s love for me.
    I can only forgive others to the degree I know how God has forgiven me.
    And I also live in the reality that God’s got a lifetime to work on me. Every time I stuff up I can come back to him, be loved and sink back into his lap, and encouraged to have another go.
    I want to live in that place every day.

    • Sounds good Rosa, once you know how much God had forgiven you, forgiving others is no an obligation but a joy. That is not to say it is always easy, but we become aware that we are partners with God in his wonderful act of grace. Stephen

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