“Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, “Pay what you owe.” So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also My Heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’”(Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)
Poor Peter. He probably thought Jesus would be so impressed with him, forgiving seven times! After all, most people figured three times was plenty.
But the truth is, it really doesn’t matter whether Jesus says “seven times” or “seventy times seven.” Because we still can’t do it, can we? Forgiving somebody once is hard enough. Doing it again and again—that calls for a kind of power I don’t have.
But Jesus has that power. Jesus can manage to love and forgive people that much. We know it from looking at His whole life. I mean, any God who can live among us with all our evils and experience the worst we could do to Him, and still lay down His life for us anyway—now, that’s real love. That’s a love we can never come to the end of. And since Jesus has risen from the dead, His ability to love and forgive and save us goes on forever. We can always come to Him for mercy and healing.
But now He says to us, “Be like Me.” How is that even possible? Only if He is living inside us, doing His work. I cannot forgive—but Jesus in me can do it. And so, when I face the impossible task, I can pray, “Lord, I can’t do it. You must do it through me.” And then I can lean all my weight on Him and allow Him to carry me as I live out forgiveness to that person, minute by minute, day by day.
God does the impossible. And because the Holy Spirit lives in us, God will do the impossible through us as well. Let’s ask Him to.
We Pray: Dear Father, please help me to forgive the person I’m having so much trouble with right now. Show me hour by hour what You want me to do, and make it happen in me. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on September 14, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. Does forgiveness mean that your relationship is completely unchanged in the future? Why or why not?
2. How do you lean on Jesus when something is too hard for you?
3. Privately, think about this: When has someone forgiven you the unforgivable? Why did they do it?