In this corrupt world, how much does God expect us to forgive? Recently in my country a girl was gang-raped in the most horrible way and finally she even died.  Does God expect her parents to forgive those rapists?  Why does god even allow such things?


God expects us to forgive up to seventy times seven when we are asked.  This is what Jesus said in Matthew 18:22.  In the parallel passage in Luke he says something similar.  Jesus tells us in Luke 17:3-4 that, if asked, we should forgive seven times in the same day.   This may seem to be an exaggeration.    Would we ever have to forgive the same person of the same sin seven times in a single day?   Would we every have to forgive the same person seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven times, depending on how you translate Matthew 18:22)?  The answer is that this will probably not happen.   Yet, if it were to happen, God is telling us to be prepared to forgive that many times.

What Jesus is saying to us is that if we have been forgiven by God for the uncountable number of sins we have committed against him, then, unless we are hypocrites, we should forgive those who sin against us much less.  The passage which really brings this home for me is Matthew 18:23-35.  Here Jesus compares the amount we have to forgive one another of to the quantity of sin God has forgiven us of if we are Christians.  Our forgiveness of one another is represented in this parable by a hundred denarii (a few hundred dollars).  What God has forgiven us is represented in the parable by ten thousand talents, which would be equivalent to many millions of dollars.   If God has forgiven us of many millions of dollars, then what height of arrogance and selfishness it is if we do not forgive one another of a few hundred dollars!

So, how many times should we forgive in this fallen world?  As many times as we are sinned against.   In fact, in the parable of the unmerciful servant God says something both ominous and profound.   He says that if we do not forgive our brother then we will be treated as the one who refused to forgive 100 denarii in the parable.  He will be turned over to be tortured until he pays back the full amount.   If we do not forgive, then God will not forgive us.

We live in a corrupt world in which terrible things like rape happen.   Evil happens, not because God does not love us, but because he gives us free will and allows us to rebel against him if we choose to do so.  This is why evil things like rape happen–because God loves us enough to give us a choice of whether we will love him or not.  We are human and God understands our weaknesses.  He understands that It can be very hard to forgive certain sins.  Yet he calls us to forgive those who sin against us, especially when they ask for our forgiveness.   God did not compromise when he forgave us of our sins.  He forgave all of them without exception.  He expects us to treat other people the same way.   Yes, God expects us to forgive even rapists if they ask us to.  That does not mean you will let them spend time alone with your female friends.   That is another thing, but you need to be willing to hand the emotion of hatred over to God, even for so terrible an act as what those who gang-raped this poor girl.  That is what the Bible teaches.

John Oakes

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