Before we begin to discuss this familiar scripture reading and think about how we can apply it to our own lives, it may be helpful to do as we have been taught and consider the time, place, and circumstances under which it was spoken. Peter, a follower of Jesus, had come to Jesus feeling hurt, frustrated, and discouraged. His brother had sinned against him, and he didn’t know how to deal with it or how much more he could take. So, Peter turned to the Lord and asked how many times his brother would sin against him and how many times he had to try to forgive him. It is here that Jesus replied that Peter’s brother would sin against him many times (perhaps 490 times), and that each time Peter was called upon as a follower of Jesus to forgive him.
This sounds like the very essence of Christianity, easy forgiveness and open heartedness. But is it often very difficult for us to do. Any of us who have been in a relationship know, all too well, that the other person can be grating, difficult, insensitive, uncompromising, quick to anger, small-minded, mean-spirited, or display any of hundreds of flawed behaviors, including physical violence to the extreme. We learn to accept, to compromise, to forgive. We often retaliate, which tends to make the situation even more volatile. And, over a period of time, there will be a drawing apart of the two who once professed undying love. It is this separation that leads to a complete lack of forgiveness and, ultimately, to divorce.
Couples who have been together for a long time have forgiven each other not 490 times, but probably thousands. People are inherently human, weak, frail and faulty. They are selfish, inconsiderate, uncompromising, sarcastic, and too busy to deal with issues. Yet, through the years, they have come to accept, to go on, to overlook, and yes, to forgive.
A very similar scenario will often occur with children, siblings, parents, coworkers, associates, superiors, neighbors and friends. And, when it does, Christians are called upon to do two things. Jesus tells us to consider each man and woman as our brother (sister) and to forgive again and again.
(Continued in Applying the scriptures to our own lives – Part II)
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur and Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor
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