Lent Devotional: Matthew 18:21-35

by Jonathan Haefs

Matthew 18:21-35 (click here)
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. (Matthew 18:21-22)

How many times should God forgive you? Seven? That’s pretty generous number…right?

We laugh at such questions don’t we? I mean…we just assume that God should have this never-ending-forgiving-posture towards our never-ending-rebellious-heart…and he does!…not because he “should” or even because he “has to,” but just because he is that kind of God.

He is love. He is good. He is merciful. And so…he extends grace again and again and again. When such grace is experienced, it transforms the heart that has received it into a heart that gives it!

That’s Jesus’ point in the parable he tells Peter. Unforgiving hearts are, at root, hearts that have rejected forgiveness. If we are an unforgiving people, it is evidence that we have not received the forgiveness which has been offered us in Christ.

If we have experienced God’s grace, then Peter’s question to Jesus in verse 21 should seem just as ridiculous as the question at the beginning of this reflection. “How many times should God forgiven us…seven?” Should seem just as silly as “How many times should I forgive others…seven?”

We desire for God to forgive us, not seven times but seventy-seven times (not literally…this is figurative language for unending forgiveness). God’s desire is for our hearts to be transformed to do the same.

When we forgive like this, we point to the truth of how we’ve been forgiven. God’s forgiveness empowers ours. Our forgiveness reveals the reality of his. We are witnesses through our forgiveness to the truth of the Gospel. Through un-forgiveness, we deny the reality of the Gospel.

So how many times should God forgive you? How many times should you forgive others? The answer to both of those questions is the same.

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.