“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21–22)
When Peter approached Jesus about the issue of forgiveness and offered up the number seven, Peter was trying to impress Jesus. Seven is more than a number. Within Judaism, forgiving someone three times is sufficient. So Peter’s offer of seven is over twice the requirement and, in comparison to the law, a generous offer. At least, that’s what I think Peter may have been thinking.
But instead of approving of Peter's attempt, Jesus raised the stakes and told Peter to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” I can almost see Peter’s jaw dropping. Jesus taught the point clearly: “It’s not a numbers game.” It’s a heart issue, not a math problem. It’s not about marking something off a checklist; it’s about living a lifestyle of love and grace.
Our world operates totally in opposition to this principle. We depend on earning everything. We use the 'give and take' method. Balance and counterbalance. Debits and credits. We like keeping score, which begins to look like a toxic game of tug of war: You hurt me, so I’ll hurt you. You treated me nicely, so I’ll treat you nicely. You offended me, so I’ll offend you.
The problem with this is that when you keep score in a relationship, everyone loses. There is also a danger of comparison. It is tempting to fall into the comparison trap of who forgave whom more often or for a more serious infraction. Be careful with your soul and the soul of another. As followers of Christ, we’re not called just to forgive when it’s convenient and fair. We’re called to live in forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t just a good idea or some helpful advice--it’s foundational. In every relationship, there’s one thing for certain — both you and the other person are imperfect. You will both mess up, you will both make mistakes, and you will both need to seek forgiveness from the other.
Try this: rather than keeping score or comparisons, make a commitment to forgive. No matter what. No strings attached. Free yourself from the needless prison and find Jesus standing at the door waiting to lead you onward.