Matthew 18: 21-35

This is one of my favourite parables and Peter is one of my favourite biblical characters. He puts his foot in it more times than any one and how many times does Jesus rebuke him for it? Never. The key to why this is lies in Jesus' simplest yet most challenging message. Forgiveness.

Peter is actually being generous when he asks Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times. In those days, what the Rabbi's taught became what others based their lives upon. With forgiveness, it was taught and therefore considered wise to forgive a man three times if he had sinned against you. A fourth time, however, would be unacceptable and should not take place. But here Jesus teaches us all that there should be no limit on how many times we forgive each other.

A minister had just finished preaching on forgiveness within the Lord's Prayer. It was Communion Sunday and they had always included a time of sharing with the Lord's Supper. He barely asked if anyone had something to share when one of the deacons, an 87 year old man stood up. He began, "For eighty four years." His wife grabbed her mouth with her hand and clenched closed her eyes in praise. "For eighty four years I have hated a little boy. Eighty-four years ago this little boy came riding up to me on his bike and said, 'Ha ha ha ha, your mother is dead.' And this is how I learned my mother had died. Today I want to forgive that boy."

No one in the congregation moved. Breathing almost stopped. Tears broke loose. The only response the minister could utter was, "This is a holy moment." Another stood up and forgave someone else. And a third.

"Forgive us our sins as we also have forgiven those who sin against us." It is always a holy moment when God's people hear his word and respond to it in obedience. Hearts were broken that day and the Holy Spirit poured out the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is contagious. The passage seems like such a simple teaching, yet it is so important and effective. For us to be forgiven, we must forgive one another from the heart. Keep this in mind.

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour.

Don't hold a grudge. God doesn't. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.