“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

In Jesus’ day, Rabbis used to teach that you forgive your brother three times and that’s it. Although it sounds absolute, this is one of the reasons I like Jewish Rabbis — they are very clear — three times only, no more and no less. When Jesus came along, he began teaching that you forgive more than three times, which was quite a controversial thing!

Peter, Jesus’ disciple who is known for being exuberant and impetuous, was the first one we know of who specifically inquired of Jesus about the matter of forgiveness. Thinking of himself as being very generous, Peter famously asked His Master if he should forgive up to seven times (four times more than what was taught by the Rabbis). Knowing that he had far exceeded what would be expected of him, Peter was likely completely blown away by Jesus’ response when He said, “Peter, you must forgive your brother seventy times seven.” Contrary to what it looked like, Jesus was not saying to forgive 490 times; rather, He was saying that you always do it, and you keep doing it!

Friend, Jesus wants you and me to forgive and to never, ever stop. Why? Because it’s good for us. It doesn’t mean that we become doormats or let people push us around; it simply means that we refuse to hold on to the hurt and bitterness that can eat away at us from the inside. When you let go of the offense others have caused, you step into your very best life, and that’s good news!


I thank you, God, for teaching me to forgive freely and generously, and I ask for your grace to do it.


What does Jesus’ command to forgive seventy times seven mean to you?

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