Luke 17:4

ESV and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
NIV Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them.'
NASB And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.'
CSB And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."
NLT Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.'
KJV And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

What does Luke 17:4 mean?

Luke finishes his collection of Jesus' teachings on sin with the difficult command to forgive. Jesus is talking about a "brother"—a fellow Christian—who sins against another Christian. The victim of the sin is obliged to "rebuke" the offender—to strongly show disapproval. Even while dealing with the wounds of sin, the victim needs to show kindness, love, humility, patience, and beneficence (Ephesians 4:15, 32; Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14–15).

But there is a requirement: the offender must repent. To repent is to turn away from wrong action or wrong belief, including remorse and agreement that the sin was wrong and undesirable. The wording doesn't indicate if Jesus is referring to the same sin committed seven times a day—like lying—or several different sins. It's probably the latter, but the same lesson applies.

On another occasion, Jesus tells Peter to forgive someone "seventy-seven times," or possibly "seventy times seven times." Either is nonliteral: the point is that we are to forgive every time (Matthew 18:21–22). In that passage, Jesus goes on to give the parable of the unforgiving servant. That lesson teaches that our offenses against God are monumental compared to anything another person might do to us. If God can forgive us, we need to forgive others. If we don't, we create a relational break between ourselves and God (Matthew 18:23–35).

Of course, constant sin—even with repentance—comes with consequences. Someone may struggle with foul language; even though they are sincerely trying to do better, discernment and common sense say such a person is not a good candidate to teach preschoolers. Nor do we let a spiritually immature man—sincere and improving or not—be an elder (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:6–9). Repentance doesn't eliminate the requirement for church discipline or restricted responsibilities.

Luke 17:1–10 appears to be a series of unrelated, non-chronological lessons that Jesus taught throughout His earthly ministry. That doesn't mean the Holy Spirit, through Luke, didn't have a plan. Some Bible scholars believe it's not a coincidence that this difficult call to forgiveness is followed by the disciples asking Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5–6).
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