Is there a limit to how many times we must forgive someone who sins against us? I mean, isn’t there a limit to the pain we must endure? In today’s gospel passage from Matthew Jesus says no.
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
To understand this teaching we need to appreciate the meaning of the number seven in the time of Jesus. Seven was the number that signified completeness. As an example, it was on the seventh day that God rested and completed creation.
Peter asks Jesus the reasonable question of how often he must forgive his brother to complete his obligation under the law. In his understanding, the most someone would ever have to forgive another was seven times. In other words, Peter’s question to Jesus was whether some number of times less than seven would satisfy his obligation.
Jesus, as he often does, turns Peter’s question on its head. He tells Peter (and us) that our forgiveness is not to be refused no matter how often our brother or sister has sinned against us. By using the number seventy-seven, Jesus instructs us that our obligation to forgive is complete when the need of another for forgiveness is complete.
So … forgive one another!