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)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus had just finished the parable of the lost sheep by concluding with a word about restoring the erring brother. Then Peter asks in his typical way of missing the point altogether, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Jesus has driven home the point repeatedly that God's forgiveness is a flood of grace, yet the religious leaders, crowds, and even His disciples insist on speaking about God's mercy in terms of scarcity.
Regardless, Jesus says to Peter that we're to forgive our brother's sin not just seven times, but seventy times seven times. This is, of course, impossible for us. We are more likely to pursue abundant punishment than unlimited absolution. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” is much more appealing to us than, “... we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” And this is especially true when we're the one holding the judge's gavel!
Jesus tells Peter that forgiveness — God's anyway — is abundant and boundless. And in the end this is what gets Him killed. He goes around healing the lame and absolving prostitutes. He tells parables about the kingdom of God that praises tax collectors while damning Pharisees. He's constantly teaching people about the kingdom of God as though getting in isn't about credits and debits, but about trusting in His work for them.
Therefore, knowing that we often sin by rejecting God's forgiveness in Christ, and thereby refusing to forgive our neighbor, we pray without ceasing the words our Lord Jesus gave us when He taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...”
From Your own mouth comes forth a word; Your shepherd speaks, but you are heard; Through him Your hand now stretches out, Forgiving sin, destroying doubt. (LSB 616:4)
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Questions or comments regarding the Reflections may be sent to the Rev. Mark Buetow, Reflections Editor, email@example.com.