"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?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matt. 13:21-22)
Our Master, Jesus, told the disciples the Parable of the Wicked (or "ungrateful") Servant to teach them, and us, how God forgives and how we must also forgive others. In the Book of Matthew, it follows the "seven times seventy" verse above, and both the verse and the parable are related to one another.
The Parable goes like this: A king had a servant, who owed him a vast sum of money. And because he couldn't pay, he begged the king to forgive the debt. And the king forgave the entire debt.
But as this servant went out of the king's court, he met a fellow servant, who owed him only a small amount; and he took him by the throat, choked him, and said, “Pay me all you owe me!" The fellow servant said, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all of it.” But he wouldn't listen, and had him thrown into jail.
When the king got wind of how his servant had acted, having had the lesser servant thrown into prison after getting mercy for himself, he was angry.
Jesus finishes the parable in this way, "'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master [the king] delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
The lesson of the parable (coming after the "seventy times seven" lesson as it does) is clear: that we are bound, every one of us, to forgive any wrong that our brothers and sisters do to us, if we expect God to forgive us.
In fact, if we expect to be forgiven by God, we must first freely offer forgiveness to others, and do so continually, as a condition of our forgiveness. Or so teaches Jesus. (Mark 11:25) Forgiveness is given to us by God freely when we ask for it, but we must in turn give forgiveness freely to others, not as a grudging act (or just when we feel like it) but willingly, and from our hearts.
As we saw, Peter asked how many times we must forgive others, and Jesus replied, “Seventy times seven” times. In other words, continually and without end. This must have shocked Peter, and it comes as a great shock today to those who believe they need “do” nothing in this life to achieve communion with God eternally in Heaven in the next. But they have been greatly misled.
And when the Scribes tried to tell Jesus that only God can forgive sins, Jesus corrected them, and by example, taught that all those who follow him should forgive others’ sins and trespasses. (Mark 2:7, John 20:23)
In opposing the Scribes, Jesus said we must be as forgiving as God is. "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:36) There are some Scribes today who doubt we have the ability to do what Jesus calls us to do.
But forgiveness, more than almost any other doctrine, is at the core of the Gospel that Jesus preached. And if Jesus can, in his dying breath, forgive those who murdered him, we can certainly forgive those who offend us with their gossip and other petty offenses. Our God, revealed to us by the teachings of Jesus, is a God of high expectations, and believes that we are able to meet and exceed them. We should believe Jesus and the God that he preaches, then act accordingly.