“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 times seven’”.
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we have to walk through and carry out in life. It is easy to feel justified about our offense and not want to forgive others, or we may face the even more difficult situation of having to forgive ourselves.
On our own, forgiveness is really out of our grasp, but it is something that deep down we all seem to know is right and needed. Peter was the one that came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive”. I believe he knew that forgiveness was hard and costly but because he knew it was right he offered to not forgive just once or twice, but seven times. In our humanness that sounds like a large number or times to let someone hurt us or wrong us over and over again. Jesus however did not agree with Peter. I don’t believe he spoke with malice, disregard, or condemnation toward Peter, but still his words were corrective. He answered, “not seven times, but seventy times seven”. That must have sounded like an impossible number. Jesus was trying to show Peter that the need for forgiveness was far greater than he understood.
Peter also needed to understand the source of forgiveness. It wasn’t going to come from him. His capacity to forgive on his own wasn’t big enough to forgive seventy times seven times. This lesson wasn’t over for Peter. When Christ’s crucifixion came the eleven disciples scattered. Peter was the only one we know was questioned about his connection with Christ. Three times Peter denied knowing him. Christ was on trial for his life and was more alone than he had ever been and Peter turned away from him, even after promising he would stand by him. Peter wronged Christ, and he knew it. He knew he needed forgiveness, and he knew he didn’t deserve it. He was left in such crisis that his response was completely out of character for him, he turned and wept bitterly over his sin. He needed to forgive those who killed his friend, he needed to be forgiven by his friend who was now dead, and mostly he needed to forgive himself.
Peter could have fallen into despair and settled into his grief. He could have denied his pain and grief and become proud or self-righteous. He could have become defiant and not accepted responsibility for what he did, making excuses that his life was at risk and times were difficult. He did not downplay his sin. He did not wallow in his grief. He did not claim to be a victim. He did not refuse his responsibility.
Instead, Peter never lost sight that he knew the grace of God. That he held no righteousness, but Christ had just given him a gift that saved him. He took responsibility for his sin, but also accepted that he didn’t deserve to be seen as righteous. He accepted that he was forgiven.
Not only did Peter accept that he was forgiven, but by living like he was forgiven he made a statement. His presence and witness spoke to others and they also recognized he was forgiven. In Acts it says, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
Peter didn’t go to the sidelines because he needed to forgive and needed to be forgiven. He accepted that he already was forgiven, and that because of that he had the ability to forgive. He became one of the greatest leaders of history.
We too have the ability to be forgiven by accepting Christ’s gift. We have the ability to forgive by being changed through accepting that gift.
Are you living like you are forgiven?
Are you willing to let God lead you to be a leader of change, healing, hope, grow, and life for those around you?