READING: Matthew 18-19
Forgiveness matters . . . and not just forgiveness of my sins, but also my forgiving others who sin against me.
On the heels of a passage about church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20, Simon Peter asked Jesus, ”“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" (Matt 18:21). Jesus’ answer probably surprised Peter and the rest of the disciples: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matt 18:22). Because the number 7 was the Jewish number of completion, the multiple of seven that includes two sevens in the final number suggests forgiving completely and fully. Followers of Jesus are to forgive without consideration for how many times we have forgiven. Indeed, Jesus’ parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:23-35) reminds us that we who’ve experienced God’s forgiveness are obligated to forgive others.
Jesus’ teachings elsewhere echo this calling. If we are praying and hold a grudge against someone, we are to forgive that person if we expect God to hear our prayers (Mark 11:25). In the words of one writer, “Successful prayer requires forgiveness as well as faith.”* Jesus went so far to say that the Father does not forgive us if we don’t forgive those who hurt us (Matt 6:14-15). If we are unwilling to forgive, we must not assume that we are in a solid relationship with God. He may instead choose to discipline us for our obstinance (see Matt 18:32-35).
Here’s the good news, though. God so loves us that He not only wants to forgive our sin, but He also wants to help us forgive others. He does not want us to live in the agony of guilt over our sin or the bondage of bitterness over the sins of others. In Him we can be fully forgiven and also fully forgive.
It’s hard to describe that kind of freedom in our soul, but it’s really, really sweet. Don’t let the enemy tie you up in anger and bitterness today.
- If you have not turned from your sin and trusted Christ to save you, do so today. Pray a simple prayer of confession and surrender.
- If you are unforgivingly angry toward someone today, confess your sin. Ask God to grant you a heart of love toward that person.
PRAYER: “Lord, forgive me, and help me to forgive (insert a name here).”
TOMORROW’S READING: Matthew 20-21
*(2010-08-10). The MacArthur Study Bible (Kindle Location 245574). Crossway. Kindle Edition.