“If you do not forgive,” Jesus said, “your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.” — Mark 11:26
Peter asked how many times one should forgive, thinking seven times was the extreme (Matthew 18:21). When Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven,” Peter should have understood that forgiveness was essential for every offense. I wonder if he got the message. Maybe not.
How often should I forgive?
Later, Jesus was again talking about the need to be forgiving. “If he offends you seven times in a day, Jesus said, “and seven times in a day he turns to you and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:4). Really? The disciples said that wasn’t possible without more faith (Luke 17:5).
I might give someone a second chance, but three or four? Hardly. Seven seems absurd, but 490 times would be impossible, right? Not if Jesus said that’s what I should do. Like the disciples, I need some faith to help in my obedience, but in what?
An incentive will help.
If I understand that God forgives me only if I forgive others, I have an incentive. Forgiveness is a choice to love the undeserving, to not want them to be penalized. Why would I do that? Because that’s what God did for me. And when I do that for others, I am forgiven and become a little more like him.
This is why part of my attitude in prayer must seek to bless those who would never bless me.