PASTOR'S PEN: How many times should we forgive those who wrong us?

Dr. Duane Costello

Faith Fellowship Church

Have you ever been wronged? Have you ever been cheated out of something? Have there been times when the same person keeps hurting you or seems to take advantage of you? I’m sure all of us have had times in our lives where we could answer yes to these questions. It really hurts when people do things to hurt us. When someone wrongs us it causes us to put up our defenses toward that person. All the emotions and feelings that are involved during this time is very high.

So the question I ask is this: How many times should we forgive those who wrong us? Well, in the Bible we have a story of Peter coming to Jesus because he has someone in his life who has been wronging him for some time and Peter wants to know how to deal with this thing called forgiveness. We find the story in Matthew 18:21 and following. I have to add here that we should read the entire chapter to put it into context. Peter asks Jesus in verse 21, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?” Notice here that Peter assumes he has the obligation to forgive someone who has wronged him because he is stating the truth that he needs to forgive; he just doesn’t know how many times to forgive someone.

You and I know that deep down inside our hearts we know it is the right thing to forgive people; but sometimes it is hard isn’t it? So Peter asks Jesus if “seven” times is a good number. Why did Peter ask if seven times was the number of times one should forgive a person who sins against you? Well, the Rabbis taught the Jewish people that they should forgive a person three times when they sin against them. In other words, they were taught that one could keep track of the number of times a person sins against them. It implied that we “had” to forgive a person “three” times but after that – forget about it! So, Peter, trying to be spiritual and trying to be a good person asks the Lord if “seven” times was better? The number seven in the bible is always referenced to as being a number that is considered “perfect”; so maybe Peter was trying to be spiritual here and show the fact that he wants to be like Jesus in regards to this thing called forgiveness.

So what did Jesus say? Well, Jesus said in verse 22, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, until 70 times seven.” That’s 490! Was Jesus saying that he wants us to carry around a pad of paper in our pocket and when someone wrongs us we are to record it and keep track of it until 490 times later and then we no longer have to forgive that person? Is that what Jesus is trying to tell Peter and you and I to do? Is forgiveness all about “keeping track” of someone’s offenses towards us; just waiting for the time when we don’t have to forgive anymore? No!

Jesus is teaching us that we are to forgive each and every time! When we keep track or keep record of the wrongs against us we are really being held “captive” by that individual who has wronged us. We keep thinking about it and we keep re-living it over and over in our minds and without us even realizing it, we are consumed by it and we cannot move forward in our lives without this causing us pain and even bitterness.

Jesus wants us to forgive so we can be free from all that junk. Jesus wants us to learn to have the attitude that causes us to forgive others because God forgives us because of Jesus’ sake. Jesus paid the debt we all owe God but cannot pay. That debt is sin and we cannot pay God because we are guilty of committing sin. Because of this God sent His son Jesus to come and die on the Cross of Calvary and Jesus took all the sins of the world from all the people of the world upon Himself while hanging on the tree. Jesus forgives all who will come to Him and ask for it. Will you come to Jesus today while there is still time?

When we learn to forgive the way God wants us to forgive, we find peace and joy we never would have if we are “keeping track” of how many times someone wrongs us. Life is too short to keep a pad of paper in our pocket to record all the times someone has wronged us or sinned against us. So throw that old pad of paper away and while you are at it, forgive those people who have wronged you. You will feel so much better!