Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
Just because someone sins again, doesn't mean you can revoke, in a sense, the forgiveness you've already given. Forgiveness is a choice, so you don't take it back so much as you choose to be offended again.
Peter struggled with this dilemma and thought he was being generous, under Jewish law, when he suggested to Jesus that he should forgive someone up to seven times.
But Jesus emphasized the unlimited generosity of forgiveness by expanding beyond the limits of Peter's capacity to forgive; not seven times, said Jesus, but seventy-seven times.
God's forgiveness is ever-expanding; we can't run beyond its borders; we can't bankrupt the account. In God's refrigerator of grace, the container filled with forgiveness never goes stale and always has a current freshness date.
I'd hate to think my conversion to Christianity is dependent upon being perfect after my conversion instead of being dependent upon God's infinite, indestructible, and immovable grace. If it is dependent upon my perfection, then I fell from the race long ago.
And perhaps you did, too?
There's always a flip side to our conflicts with other people. When we're hesitant to give grace, we forget that we, too, need grace.
Jesus says we will be judged by the standard by which we judge. Is it seven? Seventy-seven? Or, unlimited?
Didn't Jesus say it only had to be seventy-seven? Yes, but he didn't say you couldn't go higher, and he wasn't speaking about his own unlimited capacity to forgive. If each of us only had seventy-seven forgiveness tickets per person per lifetime, then I ran out many, many, many years ago. Thank God that he is faithful to forgive and actively seeking to restore each of us into the family of God.
This devotional is excerpted from Growing with Purpose, available at Saddleback resources. Copyright 2010 by Jon Walker. Used by permission.