The power of forgiveness is an incredible thing. Jesus teaches us here that forgiving your brother in Christ is an important part of the Christian teaching. Forgiving your brother should be unlimited, which is the point Jesus is making in this section.
However when we look at the Luke version of this scripture we see that this is a conditional forgiveness. Forgiving your brother is not automatic but follows a process. The Luke version of this uses the words of Jesus rather than the words of Peter and says, “Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4) So we see here that forgiving your brother is based upon their repenting of their sin.
The process follows this path. The first step is if your brother sins rebuke him. Tell him his fault and how he has wronged you. It would be remiss not to do so for how would your brother learn? Then if he repents of the sin or the wrong he has done, forgive him. We are not meant to hold grudges for grudges lead to bitterness and bitterness to division among brethren. No, instead forgive him wholeheartedly and welcome him back as a brother.
Now this forgiveness is unlimited. The point Jesus was making was that there are no limits to how many times we should forgive our brethren, on the condition that they repent. As he said, “I do not say to you seven times (in a day) but seventy times seven.” (Verse 22) Now it is highly unlikely that your brother may sin against you seventy times seven, that is, four hundred and ninety times in a day. But if he does and turns and repents, we must forgive them. And if he does it all again tomorrow and turns and repents, again we must forgive them.
We do not know what may be driving our brethren to act in this way. The Lord may be dealing with far worse things than the issue that we are seeing in that person. Our responsibility is to provide a caring environment to help them while they work things out with the Lord. And caring for your brethren also means helping them to see when they have done the wrong thing so that they can learn and put the matter before the Lord in prayer for a resolution. The resolution though may not be instant, and thus the need for forgiveness when they repent.
Finally we need to understand that we too need repentance from time to time. We came to the Lord as sinners and needed forgiveness and release from our sins, and we have all sinned far more against the Lord than we have one another. Yet he has forgiven all of those sins of ours and comforted us with his love and grace, bringing us into the presence of God. If then he did such a great thing for us, then we must likewise do the same for our brethren. If they sin, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. Then we can truly become like sons of the Father, as Jesus Christ is the Son of God.