Jesus walked the earth to provide us with an example of perfection. Unlike all the rest of us, Jesus was a man without sin. Unfortunately, our human nature does not provide us with the ability to live a sinless life; therefore, Jesus, the perfect man, took our place on the cross and died so that we might be forgiven by God for our sins. By placing our faith in Jesus, we turn from our sin and seek to follow the teachings of Jesus for the rest of our life. That is salvation – we are forgiven for our sins past, present, and future. We will never be perfect. We will always need to be forgiven. Jesus wants His believers to forgive each other in that same manner.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
In His answer to Peter, Jesus is essentially telling him there is no limit to forgiveness. God’s forgiveness to us is immeasurable. The righteousness of God requires the perfection that we lack the ability to attain. God nevertheless continues to forgive us without limit to the amount of times we stumble. In like manner, we are to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way.
Jesus further teaches in the parable of the wicked servant (Matthew 18:21-35) that those who don’t forgive are not His true followers and will be treated harshly for their lack of forgiveness.
“In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:34-35 (NIV)
How can those who have experienced unlimited mercy from God not extend that same love and forgiveness to their brothers and sisters in Christ? The answer is simple. If you are a true believer, you will possess that same endless capacity for mercy. Only those who are not true believers will turn their back on those seeking forgiveness.
Our sinful human nature guarantees there will be conflicts and misunderstandings with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Praise God for empowering us with a new nature that seeks understanding above retribution. As followers of Jesus, our mission is to support and uplift our fellow believers. Every misstep is an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and mercy by offering unconditional forgiveness.
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