Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)
By brother, I’m not sure if Peter meant a relative or simply another Jew.
In my own experience, I’ve found it easier to forgive a stranger than a brother or someone who’s very close to me. Sometimes, we can quickly dismiss strangers’ disappointing acts with the thought that “they know very little of us.” And maybe we’ll avoid crossing path with that person until they or we die.
But when the disappointment comes from a close relative or a friend, someone living under the same roof, someone sharing your bed, forgiveness may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, to move forward, it is mandatory.
Forgiving a brother is hard because we may think, “How could he…? Out of all people, how could he…?”
What’s interesting is that, out of all people, you being well-acquainted with the offender should be the one to show more tolerance than others since you wouldn’t want to see your friend or relative hurting.
The forgiveness that we are to share with others is not the forgiveness that we can reason out. It’s not the forgiveness that we share simply because we know or don’t know the person. Instead, it’s the forgiveness of Christ that we are to extend to others as Christ empowers us to do so.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
The good news is that God forgave us. The good news is that we too can now forgive others with the same mercy, the same love, the same grace that God manifested toward us.
In Christ, both the offender and the victim are forgiven by God.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”(Titus 3:3-7)
Forgiveness relieves both the offender and the victim. As the victim, we relieve ourselves of the obligation to collect on the debt. As the offender, we’re acquitted of the obligation to pay up on the debt. Therefore, as we rejoice in our own forgiveness by God through Christ, we also rejoice in the forgiveness of others by God through Christ. Both by the same sacrifice, Christ on the cross.
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”(1 John 2:2)