“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
Matthew 18 is a vitally important chapter in Scripture as Jesus teaches us much by way of parables and instruction, about dealing with sinning brothers, biblical reconciliation, and church discipline. In today’s world, we see the tyranny of “offense”. Many people say they are offended by this, that, and the other. Some play the offense card to manipulate others. Some may be legitimately offended, but don’t handle it well. Even Christians struggle with how to walk through such things and do so biblically. The truth is that as we “offenders” in conflict have the responsibility to seek forgiveness and reconcile with those we’ve offended. On the flip side of that coin, when we have been offended, we have similar responsibility to forgive and seek reconciliation. It’s easier for us to understand this concept when we offend others. In those situations, by God’s grace, we are humbled and recognize that we need to apologize for our sin and seek the forgiveness of those we offended.
However, if we aren’t careful, when we are the offended we can all too easily slip into the mentality that we have been offended and have zero responsibility to do anything. Entitlement, pride, and bitterness can settle in and poison us as we focus on the pain of the offense. We are tempted to look at the situation through those pain filled glasses. Through those glasses, it’s the sole responsibility of the offender to come to me and seek resolution. I shouldn’t have to move a mental, emotional, or physical muscle, right? Wrong. Jesus taught Peter this challenging and convicting lesson. How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?, Peter asked. We see in his answer that Peter hoped there was a limit. Up to seven times?, he asked. He hoped there could be a legitimate point where, as he tallied incidents requiring forgiveness, there would be a time where he could rightly stop. You’ve reached your limit, my friend. No more forgiveness for you. Surely seven times is reasonable, right? Wrong. Jesus told Peter seventy times seven. Ah, Peter could have said. 490 times. Got it! There is still an end. Nope, Jesus’ lesson was that there is never an end to the need to forgive, even as the offended.
This is essential for us, as Christians, to know as we strive to keep forgiveness and biblical reconciliation in practice today. As Jesus taught Peter about biblical forgiveness in today’s focus verses, remember His previous instruction in verse 15, regarding the process and pursuit of reconciliation- Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. Remember also Paul’s words to the saints in Rome- If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18), as well as those to the saints in Thessalonica- Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:13b)
Brothers and sisters, we cannot let offense and bitterness remain and reign in our hearts thinking all the while that we are being obedient and pleasing to God in doing so. Such a mentality, such behavior poisons how we look at things. It also wreaks havoc against the unity of the body of Christ. We must go to our brother or sister, whether we are the offender or the offended. Let us be peacemakers in all the right ways. We must continue to pursue them in love time and again, seeking to work things out. I’m so thankful for God’s grace in maintaining peace and unity in our church. May we continue to have such a focus at NBOPC. May we love and serve one another well, keeping short accounts, forgiving each other quickly, pursuing thorough reconciliation to the glory of God.