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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

Sometimes it’s important to read between the lines when we read the Bible. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should add to what is being said, or take away from the directives taught. When we read God’s letter to us it’s important to remember that the events of the Bible are real-life events in the lives of real-life people. The people, places and events of the Bible aren’t removed from the reality of life itself.

Such is the case with Matthew 18: 21-22. Jesus has just finished teaching on the importance of dealing with situations in which we have been openly wronged by someone else. That got Peter thinking. Perhaps he was hoping to justify some feelings of resentment or bitterness. Maybe he was about to get the revenge he was hoping for. For whatever the reason he goes to Jesus, I think for vindication of feelings of judgment.

‘So, Jesus,” He starts out, “How many times should I forgive? Up to seven times?” Street logic of the day said three times and you are out. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me a third time and look out! So Peter, knowing who he was talking to, doubled that and threw one in for good measure. Seven times oughta do it.

Jesus’ response isn’t so surprising. If we forgive as God forgives there are no limitations. Fair? No! Grace and forgiveness are never built on the premise of justice or rights. But it’s what Jesus doesn’t say that catches my mind.

Jesus didn’t ask Peter if the person in question asked for forgiveness. He didn’t ask if this was a one-time sin or one that had been done repeatedly. He didn’t ask if the person actually deserved forgiveness, or if the person was of the same denomination or sexual persuasion, or political party. He didn’t question Peter as to whether the person was pro-life or pro-choice. He simply said forgive.

We won’t always agree with those who wrong us. We won’t always approve of their actions. We won’t appreciate the pain they cause to us emotionally, physically or spiritually. We may dislike their body piercings, shudder at their dress or be disappointed with their worship style and music.

Do we choose our family? If my father accepts the doctrine of my adversary shouldn’t I? If my Father accepts people and loves people and forgives people who are drastically different than I am, shouldn’t I?

When Peter came to Jesus he learned a valuable lesson each of us needs to remember. When we came to Christ we came with various amounts of baggage. Some of our loads were piled high. Others not so much. No matter what baggage we carried we were forgiven. Should we not forgive those who are different than us as well?

PRAYER: Father forgiveness has always been hard for me. So many times I’m afraid to forgive because I’m not about to let myself get hurt again. Yet you have forgiven me countless times for recurring sin in my life. Empower me with your Spirit to forgive those who have wronged me and accept those who are different than I. In Jesus name, Amen.

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