(The following is the January 21 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Matthew 18 and pay close attention to verses 21-35.)
Forgiving others is difficult. We may hold a grudge or seek revenge when someone hurts us. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?” (v. 21). Peter may have thought he was generous, suggesting that he forgive someone seven times. He didn’t expect Jesus’ response, “I tell you, not as many as seven, but seventy times seven” (v. 22). Imagine Peter’s eyes getting big at Jesus’ words.
Jesus’ answer focused not on a specific number of times one should forgive but on the heart behind the forgiveness. To illustrate, he told a parable of a man who forgave a servant the enormous debt of 10,000 talents. One talent was worth about twenty years of wages for a common laborer, so this debt of 200,000 years’ wages would be impossible for anyone to pay off. The master, however, wrote off the entire debt. Rather than express gratitude and forgive others similarly, the ungrateful servant treated harshly another person who owed him about 100 days' wages – a tiny amount compared to what the master forgave the servant. The unforgiving servant was sternly condemned for his lack of mercy and punished accordingly.
Because everyone sins against God, we owe a debt we can’t repay. God has every right to cast us into Hell to pay that debt, but Jesus paid the debt we owe on the cross. God credits the righteousness of Christ to the account of all who repent and trust in him, fully forgiving their debt. Will we be the modern equivalent of the ungrateful servant and fail to forgive others? People who have wronged us may not deserve our forgiveness, but neither do we deserve God’s forgiveness. Therefore, we must do as God says and forgive others without limit.
Is there someone you have never fully forgiven? Pray to God for the desire and ability to forgive that person. If the person is still living, work to restore the relationship. Tell the person that you forgive them.