Again, Again and Again
(21) "Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? As many as seven times?' (22) Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (NASV)
We hear a lot about "Tough Love" and not forgiving repeated times; however, the New Testament teaches that we are to forgive 70 times 7, which is 490 times, or essentially, an infinite number of times. Perhaps our Christian calling to forgive again and again is intended to be something of a shadow of God's willingness to forgive us?
The story is told about a "Hanging Cowboy Judge" who would often repeat the phrase after a sentencing, "String him up; it will teach him a lesson!" Then one day the old judge died and appeared before God at the Judgment Seat. He feared that God would repeat the same judgment that he had so often pronounced on others, but when God spoke He said, "Forgive him, it will teach him a lesson." This is, of course, not a true story for we know that at death our fate is sealed.
Jesus' story of enduring forgiveness underlines a core ideal in the New Testament that unless we forgive others, God will not forgive us. (Mk. 15:25) As recipients of the great mercy of God we find it easy to forgive others.
Soon after the Watergate Debacle of the Nixon White House, and prior to beginning his prison term for his part in the cover-up, the media picked up a story about Chuck Colson's New Birth experience. Many were quick to discount it as "Jailhouse Religion," but I felt a genuineness in his television interviews. He had come to Christ after reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. After reading about his conversion, I wrote to Mr. Colson expressing my support and good feelings about his new birth experience. He wrote back thanking me for my support and for my forgiveness. He also shared that not everyone had been able to forgive him and some held a seething anger toward him in his part in bringing a U.S. President down. Later Chuck Colson wrote the best selling book, Born Again, in which he told the story of his salvation and the founding of his worldwide prison ministry, which continues today. Yet, many have refused to forgive Chuck Colson even after all these years, and no doubt, some have. Can we deny forgiveness to anyone when we remember how much forgiveness it still takes, to redeem and remold us? (Eph. 4:3) If we could begin to practice Christ's forgiveness, again and again, we could begin to heal broken hearts, mend relationships, and restore many to the fellowship of the forgiven. Or, we could end up like the unforgiving servant who received forgiveness from his master but would not forgive anyone else.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor