Our scripture this week is Matthew 18:21-35.

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. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

God’s mercy and forgiveness is given to us as a free gift. There is nothing we can do to deserve or earn it. If we are truly thankful for this blessing, we must respond in kind, offering our forgiveness to others without expectation.

If we require something in return in order to forgive others, we are not practicing the lesson Jesus taught. He told Peter and the disciples they must continue to forgive without concern for how many times they did. Keeping track of offenses only hardens our hearts.

This is so important that Jesus included it in the model prayer He taught us – “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). Forgiveness frees both the offender and the one who was hurt from the burden. When we forgive others, we are both blessed.

Gracious God, in Your mercy we have been forgiven. Help us to live in Your light, offering our forgiveness to others and bringing all to the joy of a relationship with You. Amen.

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