How Many Times Should We Forgive Someone?

How Many Times Should We Forgive Someone?

Jesus shared a story (parable) about forgiving others.

Jesus’ illustration was prompted by Peter, who asked if forgiving someone seven times was enough; Peter thought seven times was generous. Jesus upped the figure considerably, saying seventy-seven times. But we don’t take this amount literally, instead understanding that Jesus really meant we need to forgive others “more times than we can count” or “without limit.”

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Jesus’ story, however, takes the idea of forgiveness to another level. A man, who owed a huge debt he could never repay, begged for mercy, for more time to make payment. But instead of receiving additional time, the debt was forgiven.

But then the man threatened someone who owed him a tiny bit of money. No mercy was given; no forgiveness was offered. He withheld from others what had been given to him.

Because of the man’s selfishness and not treating others as he was treated, his debt was reinstated and he was thrown into prison and tortured. Our fate will be no different if we don’t forgive others.

We, who have been forgiven much by God, need to likewise forgive others. The risk of withholding forgiveness is too great.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 17-19, and today’s post is on Matthew 18:21-35.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

4 Comments

  • annepeterson Posted February 14, 2013 10:30 am

    I remember cringing when I would read that portion in scripture about how forgiving God wants us to be. It was okay with me that he forgave me without me deserving it. Maybe on some level I thought I did deserve it. But the ones who have hurt me? Well, I’d rather give them judge them. I’m so thankful God continues to conform me to his image. I’m so glad he is the ultimate forgiver. Good post to meditate on. Thanks, Peter.

    • Peter DeHaan Posted February 14, 2013 10:42 am

      Anne, thanks for your thoughtful comments. From a human standpoint, judgement for those who’ve hurt us often is our preferred response!

      • annepeterson Posted February 17, 2013 12:09 pm

        I’m afraid we often do the same when the person who needs to be forgiven is us.

        • Peter DeHaan Posted February 18, 2013 12:16 pm

          True!

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