It is within the context of Jesusí teaching on relationships between believers that he introduces the parable of the unforgiving servant. Jesus has encouraged them to become humble and faithful like children, warned them against causing a brother to stumble, shown them how much the Father rejoices over the return of a lost believer, and explained what to do when a believer sins. Now, prompted by Peterís question, he turns to the question of forgiveness.
Peter seems to have been musing on Jesusí previous words. How often should we forgive a brother who wrongs us? Seven times? Seven times would seem generous in some circumstances, especially since the Rabbis of the time taught that three times was enough, but Jesusí answer makes Peterís look mean.
Jesus is teaching extravagant forgiveness. This does not override his previous words about disciplining a believer who is in unrepentant sin, but our relationships with one another should be based on the possibility of infinite forgiveness, just as our relationship with God is dependent on his infinite mercy and forgiveness.We may not remain in close relationship with everyone who has wronged us, but those who have been forgiven by God must practise forgiveness as generously as he has done. Forgiving others will not earn Godís forgiveness for us, but, like worship, forgiving others is the appropriate response to the infinite mercy that God has blessed us with.
It can be hard to forgive, especially when the wrong against us is outstanding and no apology or admission has been forthcoming. Nevertheless, in view of Godís great mercy towards us, how can we withhold, like the unmerciful servant, our own forgiveness? If you are struggling today, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the place of being able to offer forgiveness.