Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
In Matthew 18 Jesus gave many principles for right relationships among His followers. After showing the importance of not offending others, He showed how important each individual is to Him. He explained that if even one of His “sheep” went astray, He would go after that person to rescue him or her. Jesus demonstrated His own willingness to forgive.
In verses 15-17 Jesus Christ described a method for seeking reconciliation with a spiritual brother who has sinned against us. The implication is that as often as possible, after appropriate signs of a repentant mind, the sinning brother should be forgiven and the relationship rebuilt.
Peter recognized the need to be forgiving, and probably thought he was being generous in offering to forgive seven times since the “traditional limit was three times” (Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, note on Matthew 18:21).
But Jesus Christ probably shocked them all with His impossible limit of 70 times seven. “The point is not to keep count at all, but to always be willing to forgive” (ibid.).
For more about forgiveness, see the article “How to Forgive.”