Every Offense, A First Offense
Above all, love each other deeply,
because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Peter has always been my
favorite disciple, mostly because he wears his flaws openly—like a pair of
garish plaid pants. He’s impetuous and prickly, yet he’s also loyal and passionate.
In Matthew 18:21, he asked Jesus
what he thought was a valid question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my
brother when he sins against me?” Then he added a postscript that he assumed
would display his humble, generous spirit: “Up to seven times?”
Jesus, of course, directed
Peter to the root of the problem
rather than the fruit of the problem.
An unforgiving spirit is the product of a proud heart. Peter wanted to limit
forgiveness because his attitude was “after seven times, this other person
really needs to learn a lesson about not offending me and everyone else. If I keep
forgiving him, how is he ever going to learn that lesson and become righteous
Jesus told Peter a parable
about forgiveness to demonstrate how he could learn to forgive others without
keeping a tally of their offenses or his own acts of mercy. Jesus pointed out
that if we focus on our own sinfulness—how often we sin against God and how
often He forgives us—we should be motivated to extend that same grace to others. The Greek word
translated “forgive” is aphiemi,
which means “to send away” or “to let go.” Used in a court of law, it
acquit.” To acquit someone is to declare that individual "not guilty."
God acquits us and holds no grudges; He asks us to do the same for
It is never my job to “fix”
other people. That’s God’s job. My job is to allow the love and forgiveness God
pours out on me to spill over onto other people. 1 Corinthians 13:4 reminds me
that God’s love “keeps no record of wrongs.” If I extend that love to others,
then every offense they commit remains a first offense. And everyone deserves a
second chance, right?
- Read the parable Jesus told
in Matthew 18:23-35. How does this story illustrate what it means to “forgive
your brother from the heart”?
- Joseph had a lot of
experience in “keeping no record of wrongs.” What was his attitude about his
brothers’ offenses? (Read Genesis 45:4-15; 50:15-21.)
- Read Luke 17:1-10. Why do
you think Jesus added a lesson on “duty” after he gave a lesson on
- A vivid object lesson of
forgiveness is given in Leviticus 16:20-22. What did the goat released in the
desert symbolize? How can we apply that same principle to those who sin against
us? (To get a fuller picture of the live goat’s role on the Day of Atonement, also
read Leviticus 16:1-19.)
Denise K. Loock
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