Mat 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (22) Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Many of you know that these words of the Lord Jesus to Peter have been twisted and misused by the wicked (RASN’s) to keep their victims in bondage to their abuse. “Now, you know that God requires you to forgive me. I said I’m sorry.” And his allies, often in the local church, pull the same card. Victims have often been chastised and even put out of churches because they refused to “let bygones be bygones.”
But these words are from the Lord Himself! His intent is surely not to justify and enable the wicked by commanding some kind of universal “forgiveness.” I find it very helpful in sorting these kind of things out to step back and take a look at the entire landscape before jumping into the particulars.
Consider – God Himself does not practice universal forgiveness. God does not forgive the majority of mankind. He sends them to hell. No doubt many of these will be loudly protesting “but we said we are sorry.” The Lord is not fooled by false repentance and superficial get out of hell free cards in the form of “I’m sorry.” God Himself does not forgive everyone. This is enough in itself to prove that whatever Jesus meant by the 70 times seven teaching, it cannot mean we must keep on forgiving the wicked even though they keep right on doing evil, then running back to the safe zone insisting that they cannot be tagged out.
What else does the landscape (context) of this scripture tell us? Well, notice the repeated use of the term “brother” here, and in the final “punch line” at the end of the parable Jesus used about the wicked, unforgiving servant:
Mat 18:35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Peter’s initial question was “how often will my brother sin against me…?” They aren’t talking about just “someone” or “anyone.” The question is in regard to “my brother.” In other words, this is how it is to be in the kingdom of God. Not in the fully realized kingdom – in the new creation – but as the kingdom is now in this present world. We are citizens of Christ’s kingdom, but we are not yet glorified. We still battle with sin. We still sin against one another – against our brother.
In Christ’s kingdom now, we are brothers. Brethren. We are fellows in His kingdom. Fellow-servants. I need to quote Jesus’ parable in full here to explain this “brotherhood.” –
Mat 18:23-35 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. (24) When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. (25) And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
(26) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
(28) But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ (29) So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ (30) He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
(31) When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. (32) Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. (33) And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
(34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. (35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The Lord Jesus is VERY specific. “Brother. Fellow servant. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to….”. Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question and His instruction of 70 times seven is teaching for Christ’s church. For His people. For brothers and sisters in Christ. As was the case of the wicked, unforgiving servant, when someone who claims to be a Christian, a citizen of the kingdom, refuses to forgive an fellow Christian who has come sincerely seeking forgiveness, sincerely repenting, that unforgiving brother proves himself to be a counterfeit and (see Matthew 18) is put out of the church.
All of this is extremely important to get a firm hold on. Seventy times seven refers to real Christians, kingdom citizens, loving and forgiving one another. Jesus, in this passage, is not addressing the issue of forgiveness when the wicked hate us, abuse us, then come running up with an “I’m sorry, you are now required to forgive me and reconcile with me. If you don’t, God’s condemnation is upon you and He will not forgive you.”
Jesus never taught that when a RASN, and evil person, works their evil upon us, says they are sorry, then goes right ahead working that same evil, we are to dismiss their evil and never bring it up again. This is why local churches who discipline and even ex-communicate a victim of abuse are putting the wrong person out. The continued evil abuse practiced by the RASN demonstrates that their “repentance” is false. Their fruits betray who and what they really are.
“How many will say to Me on that day….’but Lord, we said we were sorry.'”