In today’s gospel reading for the eleventh Sunday following Pentecost Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus speaks of the importance of forgiving others by telling the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The Parable provides a very interesting contrast between the teachings of the Old and New Testaments concerning forgiveness.
As the story goes the Apostle Peter asks the Lord, ..”if my brother keeps on sinning against me. How many times do I have to forgive him?…seven times?”. To which Jesus replies, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-23).
You see in the Old Testament, God promised to forgive sins but also to punish the guilty and their children to the third and fourth generations.(Exodus 34:7). According to rabbinic law a person must forgive another three times, so the Apostle Peter by Old Testament and rabbinic law was already very generous when he mentioned seven times.
The Apostle Peter somewhat confidently thought that he was already much more generous then the law by stating seven times, to which Jesus replied seventy times seven, in other words there is no measure or number for the times we are to forgive, because forgiveness is unlimited.
We are reminded in the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus himself taught us to pray with these words, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
So one of the most distinctive teachings of the Christian faith is to freely forgive others their transgressions. Based on the experience of God’s forgiveness in Christ, we are to forgive others from our heart, most of all. So let us be ever mindful of the word’s of the Lord’s Prayer given to us so that we may be truly forgiving and loving in all that we do.