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Weekly Encouragement

How Many Times Must You Forgive Your Family?

Norman Rockwell – “Thanksgiving”
Public Domain

Once Peter asked “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

I’ve often wondered if Peter was using the word “brother” in the same we do about our brothers and sisters in Christ or not.  I mean they hadn’t really figured out the Gospel at this point, so who knows if they were calling their fellow believers “brother and sister” yet.

Instead, what if Andrew, Peter’s brother, was standing right there when Peter asked.  What kind of quarrel do you think they were having?  In the context of the verse, the disciples had just asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Maybe Andrew had stepped on Peter’s spiritual pride, which led to this line of questioning.

Whatever the circumstance, Jesus replies, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22)

For the math wizards in our readership, that’s 490 times.

The hard part of this number isn’t whether or not your brother or sister will sin against you 490 times—they will; rather it’s that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5), which means if you love them enough to forgive them, you won’t keep a tally of the number of times they’ve hurt you.

In essence, you’ll forgive them every time.  And the only true forgiveness is God’s forgiveness. He erases the sin as if it never happened, so when we forgive like Him, we must choose to forget as well.

Jesus finishes his talk here with the parable of the man who was forgiven a great debt but refused to forgive a little one, so he was handed over to the torturers until he could repay what he owed.  Jesus says, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

I’m guessing Peter made up with his brother pretty quickly after Jesus’ talk.

In conclusion, Thanksgiving is less than a week away.  If your family is anything like my family, there are some hurts that go way back that no one has forgotten about and still cause issues when the clan gets together at holidays.  Let’s take some time over the next week to bring those things before our Father and forgive and forget.

Make things right, so that you and your family can be truly thankful this Thanksgiving.

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