“... Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
- MATTHEW 18:21
The Isle of Pelicans is its official name...but you would probably know it as Alcatraz. For thirty years—from 1933 to 1963—it housed the very toughest of federal prisoners. During that time, 26 tried to escape...but only five succeeded. Alcatraz, surrounded by the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay, was considered the finest maximum security prison of its time. But there is a prison more secure than Alcatraz, or any other prison on the face of the earth. It is the prison of the human heart that refuses to forgive.
We like forgiveness most when we are in a position to receive it. When we’ve sinned, we want to hear about God’s amazing grace. (Incidentally, I’ve heard the hymn Amazing Grace sung at the funerals of some of the meanest scoundrels who ever lived!) It is when you and I are in a position to extend forgiveness that we become quite a bit stingier. But did you know that we are forgiven in the exact same proportion with which we forgive others? That’s right. To the degree that I forgive, the forgiveness of God is made available to me. Peter wanted to make sure he understood forgiveness when he asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sinned against him...and he thought seven was a generous estimate. Imagine his shock when Jesus multiplied that number by 70! What He was really saying was that we should only limit our forgiveness to others if we want God to limit the forgiveness He offers us. Simply put, if unlimited forgiveness is what we desire, unlimited forgiveness is what we should be willing to give.