“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’”
I think Peter had a little more insight into the mind of God than he gets credit for. In the passage leading up to this, Jesus spoke regarding confronting those who are in sin. He spoke of going to a sinning brother, bringing others and going a second time, then telling the church of his sin, and finally treating the unrepentant as you would an unbeliever (which of course means that you want to do all you can to win them back to Christ). It is in response to this that Peter asks regarding forgiveness.
Not all sins are to be confronted. When a believer is committing a sin that endangers their relationship with God, we must do all that is available to us to warn them, instruct them, and win them back to Christ; but not all sin is like that. Some sins are what we might call the sins of humanity. They are sins that manifest themselves in things like forgetfulness, or being inconsiderate, or even unkind. We might also call these relational sins. Those are not the sins that need to be confronted, but forgiven. Many of us have had a well-intentioned believer come to us, quote Matthew 18 about confronting sin, then proceed to tell us of the recent times when we disappointed them by neglecting to call, seeming to ignore them, or sitting in a different location at church. I want to suggest that those are not sins to confront, but to forgive.
Forgiveness is really the key to relationships within the body. The longer we walk with Jesus, the more we will find that even the Christians we admire most will do things to let us down or hurt our feelings. If we carry those things around, not only are we disobeying Jesus’ example and command to forgive, but we are also carrying around weight that will slow us down in our Christian progress. It will work like a poison, turning us from a sweet and fruitful tree that draws others to Christ, into a bitter root that others avoid.
Perhaps now would be a good time to examine your heart. Are you bearing a grudge? Is there anyone you are not forgiving? Is there anyone who you would like to see in debtor’s prison?
Paul said, “Forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Look at the debt which you have been forgiven, and forgive!
Questions for Chapter 18