“Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?” — Mat_18:21.
THE RELIGIOUS teachers of Christ’s day taught that four times was the extreme limit of forgiveness. Peter exceeded this in his estimate, but how far even he fell short of the Divine ideal! Seven was to the Jews the number of perfection so that no expression could more forcibly convey the impression of ever-renewed, eternal, repetition than “seventy times seven!.” What comfort there is for each one of us here! For if God expects man to forgive his brother thus, how may we not count on His forgiveness!
This parable shows the great wrong we do to ourselves as well as to our brother when we fail to forgive. Here was a man who had been forgiven the enormous debt of two million sterling, but was not softened and chastened by its remission, for he went immediately from his Master’s presence to lay violent hands on an unfortunate fellow-servant, who owed him less than a five-pound note. He is deaf to the reasons which had filled his own mouth previously and oblivious of everything except that this debt should be paid instantly.
Are we not all tempted to abuse the forgiving love of God, and to be censorious, vindictive, implacable, and unforgiving? If you want to be the reverse of this, consider how much you have been forgiven! Sit down and count up your enormous debt to God, and how freely He has forgiven you. Only the forgiving are forgiven—”If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” If we are unrelenting, slow to recognize merit, quick to observe faults, cherishing ill-will and resentment for injuries inflicted, perhaps years ago; and if we cling to and nourish this spirit, we may be sure that we have never been forgiven.
How are we to attain the state of mind which forgives so often, and can win the most wayward? The parable teaches us that we must receive God’s pardon in a right spirit, that we must remember our own failures and sins, and that we must ever be willing to cast the mantle of forgiving love over the sins and failures of those around us.
O Lord, may we hear Thee say to us: Thy sins which are many are all forgiven; Go in peace; and may we, in our turn, forgive as we have been forgiven, and may the sun not go down upon our wrath. AMEN.