How many times must you forgive your brother or sister who sins against you? Do you know how many times I have forgiven you?

How many times must you forgive your brother or sister who sins against you? Do you know how many times I have forgiven you?

Matthew 18:22

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven!

Infinite Forgiveness

Peter had just asked how many times should he forgive his brother and suggested seven times (Matt. 18:21), thinking that’s pretty pious, as the Jews’ number of forgiving someone was normally three times, so Peter thought, “Hey, I’ll go over even what the Jews require.” But Jesus corrected Peter and told him “seventy times seven.” This didn’t mean that Peter, and we for that matter, should keep a checklist and when the number reaches 490 times that’s it! No, the number seven is typically used for the number of completion in the Bible, so Jesus was saying that we ought to forgive people an infinite number of times and do it perfectly or completely. Consider how much we have been forgiven, and then think about how much we have to forgive others; it’s no contest. We’ve been forgiven exponentially more than we could ever forgive others in a million lifetimes.

Does God Keep Count?

I don’t believe God keeps count of our sins because for one thing, the number would be massive. God says that He forgives us of all our sins (1 John 1:9) and then that’s it. He takes our sins and removes them from us as far as the east is from the west, which, by the way, never meet (Psalm 103:12). I’m glad it’s not north and south because they meet at the equator, but the east and west go on for infinity, which is the number of times God will forgive us. And that’s far too many to count.

Don’t Keep Count

If we think about how much God has forgiven us and those sins yet ahead of us, how can we keep a count on the times that our brother or sister sins against us? Remember the Parable of the Unforgiving or Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18:21-35)? The first servant had his debt paid, which was so enormous that he wouldn’t have paid it off in his lifetime, but the master still forgave it. Then the servant who owed an enormous amount refused to forgive someone who owed a very small debt to him that could have easily been paid off in a very short amount of time. The servant who had the greater debt forgiven refused to forgive the one who only owed a little. When the master heard of this, he took the unmerciful servant and cast him into prison. The point is that we have to forgive our brothers and sisters everything and that debt can easily be paid, so we shouldn’t keep count of their sins. However, the debt we owed was too large for us to ever pay off in a million lifetimes, but it was forgiven. How many times has God forgiven you? Probably too many to count, right? Now, how many times must we forgive our brothers and sisters when they sin against us? As many times as they sin against us!

A Closing Prayer

Great merciful God, thank You for taking all of our sins away.  I cannot fathom how it pleased You to bruise Him for our sake (Isaiah 53) so that we might become the righteousness of Christ (2nd Cor 5:21) and even more amazing considering that He died for us while still enemies and wicked sinners (Rom 5:8, 10) so in Jesus’ precious name I thank You.


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