How often should I forgive my brother?

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Peter asked this same question of Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21,22).

Jewish tradition says that the teachers of the law limited the times one should forgive another to three, basing their belief on a misinterpretation of Amos 1:3. Peter thinking that he was in line with Christ’s teachings on the Sermon of the Mount, raised the number to seven times.

The truth is that forgiveness is not a matter of counting times but an attitude of the heart. The Bible teaches that forgiveness is more than a judicial act; it is a restoration of peace where there had been conflict “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Forgiveness is letting go of the sins that have caused a barrier between two parties.

Jesus answered Peter saying, you should forgive “until seventy times seven.” It is clear that the number itself is only symbolic. If the spirit of forgiveness moves the heart, a person will be as ready to forgive many times.

Then, Jesus gave a parable that represents the Lord’s dealings with us, and the way we should deal with our fellow men. He told of a servant who was forgiven by His master of a debt that he owed. But the forgiven servant went and put another fellow servant in Jail because the second owned the first money and could not pay back. The first servant received mercy but failed to give the same kindness to his brother.

When the Master heard of it, he said, “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. Then Jesus told His disciples, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (v. 32-35). Instead of exhibiting selfishness and hate towards our fellow men, God’s kindness over us should lead us to deal lovingly and patiently towards all.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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