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After all the conversations about helping your brother when he sins, and about going after even one lost sheep, and about rejoicing when your lost brother comes home, Peter still had a question.
So Peter went to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who is being mean to me? When is enough, enough? Seven is a lot of times. Should I keep forgiving him, even as many as seven times?”
Jesus answered him, “No, Peter, not seven times, but seventy-seven times!”
Peter’s heart dropped. He thought, “Huh? Seventy-seven times is a lot of times to forgive someone.”
Jesus could see that Peter needed another story to help him out.
“Peter, God’s expression of Heaven on earth is like a king who was doing his accounting. A servant who owed the king 10,000 bags of coins was brought before the king. (Ten thousand is a lot; it looks like this.)
“Because the servant was not able to pay it back, the king ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, children, and his stuff, to pay for his debt.
“When the servant heard this, he threw himself down to the ground before his master the king and said, ‘Please! Be patient with me. I will repay you everything.’
“The king had compassion on that servant and let him go. And not only that… he forgave the man’s whole debt and said, ‘Just forget about the money you owe me. You don’t have to pay it back at all.’ (What?! That is crazy kind and generous, isn’t it?)
“On his way home, that same servant found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 little coins. (One hundred is not very many compared to ten thousand bags; it looks like this.)
“The first servant attacked his fellow servant and started to hurt him, saying, ‘Pay me back what you owe me!’ His fellow servant threw himself down and begged, ‘Please be patient with me. I’ll repay you everything.’ (Does this sound familiar? Yes, that is the same thing the first servant asked the king.) But the first servant refused! Instead, he threw his fellow servant in prison until he repaid the debt. (Oh no! Had he already forgotten about the HUGE debt that the king forgave him?)
“When the other servants saw what had happened, they were really upset about it. They went and told the king everything that had happened. (I bet you know what the king thought about it! His anger began to burn hot.) The king called in the first servant and said to him, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you all the debt because you begged me! Ten thousand bags of coins! Shouldn’t you have shown mercy to your fellow servant, just like I did for you?’ So the king sent that unforgiving servant to the prison guards to be dealt with, until he paid back all he owed.”
Then Jesus told them, “My Heavenly Father will do to the same to you, if you don’t forgive your brother from your heart.”
How many times do you think you’ve needed forgiven? Seven? Seventy-seven? More than seventy-seven? Yeah… more than seventy-seven.
Do you remember what Jesus said about how the measure you use will be used on you? Sounds like we should be generous in forgiving others, shouldn’t we?
If we realize just how much we need God’s forgiveness, we’ll realize that enough is never enough. We’ll see that we’ll always need one more day of forgiveness, so it’ll never seem like too much for us to forgive someone else.
Can you see how in the last five stories Jesus was really always saying the same thing? Love your brothers and sisters. Do everything you can to help them if they sin and wander away from God, never forgetting that we have all been that lost, wandering sheep at one time or another.
And whether someone can be a part of God’s Family is NOT about how many times they mess up. It’s about their attitude and softness toward God. If someone is truly sorry and wanting help to change and asking our forgiveness, 7 or 77 or 777 times is not too much.
It’s a love thing. If your brother or sister will come back home with you — forgive him, and walk him back home.