Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him of the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him one hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into the prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
One of the great messages of the Gospel is that God will forgive us of all our sins, no matter how great. This is such good news! It is impossible for us to be sinless, so forgiveness is essential if we are to have a relationship with God.
There’s a couple of reasons I believe it’s essential to pass this forgiveness on to others. First, as Jesus points out, it is hypocritical to ask forgiveness of God, but to not give it to others. God does not love hypocrisy. But another reason is that God has already forgiven that person. Do you think you are so much more righteous than God that you can hold someone’s sins against them where He does not? Really? Whenever I put it like that it helps me to understand that not forgiving someone is completely ridiculous. It doesn’t always make it easier to forgive, though. Forgiveness can be hard.
And guess what else? God will forgive us no matter how many times we sin! In the same way, we need to forgive others over and over. There is no three-strike policy here. Jesus says to forgive seventy-seven or seven times seven times. It was basically His way of saying infinity. Forgive infinity times.
I do want to point out, however, that forgiveness does not necessarily mean your relationship will go on in the same way. For example, a woman in an abusive relationship may forgive her partner, but she still needs to end that unhealthy relationship. Ideally forgiveness would lead to reconciliation, but that is not always possible, particularly if the other party is not a believer.