Today’s bible study is Mathew 18:21-22: Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Before we discuss this familiar scripture reading and think about how we can apply it to our lives, it may be helpful to consider the time, place, and circumstances in which it was spoken. Peter, a follower of Jesus, had come to Jesus feeling hurt, frustrated, and discouraged. His brother had sinned against him, and he didn’t know how to deal with it or how much more he could take. So, Peter turned to the Lord and asked how many times his brother would sin against him and how many times he had to try to forgive him. It is here that Jesus replied that Peter’s brother would sin against him many times, perhaps as many as 490, and that each time Peter would be expected to forgive him.
This sounds like the very essence of Christianity, easy forgiveness and open-heartedness. Yet is it often very difficult for us to do. Any of us who have been in a relationship know, all too well, that the other person can be aggravating, difficult, insensitive, uncompromising, quick to anger, small-minded or mean-spirited. Too often people display unacceptabke behaviors, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse. We learn to accept, to compromise, and to forgive. Sometimes we retaliate, which tends to make the situation even more volatile. Eventually, over a period of time, there will be a drawing apart of the two who once professed undying love. It is this separation that leads to a complete lack of forgiveness and, ultimately, to divorce.
Couples who have been together for a long time have forgiven each other, not 490 times, but probably thousands. They have accepted that people are inherently human, weak, frail and faulty. They understand that people are often selfish, inconsiderate, uncompromising, sarcastic, and too busy to deal with important issues. Yet, through the years, they have come to accept, to go on, to overlook, and even to forgive. A very similar scenario often occurs with children, siblings, parents, coworkers, associates, superiors, neighbors and friends. And, when it does, Christians are called upon to do two things. Jesus tells us to consider each man and woman as our brother or sister and to forgive again and again. May we have the grace to forgive not seven times, not four hundred times, but as many times as we must to reflect the open-hearted forgiveness of Jesus and to follow his blessed example.
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur and Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor. You might also like to read:
- Broad Brook Bible Study Examiner, Grace Dooley
- Atlanta Christian Living Examiner, Taylor Powell
- Atlanta Bible Study Examiner, Donna Sundblad
- Kentucky Bible Study Examiner, Timothy Edwards
- Daily Bible Guide
- Growing in Christ
- Bible Study Tools Online
- The Jesus Walk Bible Study Series