21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Forgiveness is another one of those things that should go without saying. Yet Jesus is here to remind us. Peter asks Jesus a loaded question, thinking that forgiving someone seven times would be a ludicrous, extravagant gesture—one that might draw attention to his piety, even. Jesus rejects Peter’s extravagance as too small for God: “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Why such a grand gesture? Maybe it’s that Jesus knows how often we will hurt each other in church, how often we’ll need to forgive if we want to keep it up. Maybe it’s because our forgiveness reflects some of the divine grace that constitutes our life together. Or maybe it’s simply because, in a world short on grace, God wants there to be people who know how to forgive; and, as the church, we have plenty of practice.
Help us to forgive others, Lord, even as we have been forgiven, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.