“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Is Jesus referring to mercy?

The issue is forgiveness, and forgiving others as we've been forgiven. This is also called having mercy on others.

Each of us living within a physical body is here because we need to grow spiritually. This physical world and lifetime is an educational journey. We were sent into the physical world primarily to learn about love. To learn to love each other and learn to love the Supreme Being - if we choose to.

Love requires not only caring about each other but being willing to forgive each other. This means forgiving others even if they don't forgive us. This means having mercy on others even though they may not have mercy on us.

Because ultimately, God is merciful to all of us.

Here we have the freedom to ignore God, and ignore His mercy. We even have the freedom to question His very existence. We can also blame Him for our own decisions. We can consider ourselves as the center of the universe, and claim nothing exists unless I see it with my eyes. And we can even claim there is no God.

And yet still, God is willing to forgive us. Not seven times, but innumerable times.

So the question is, are we not going to have mercy and forgiveness for others after being forgiven by God? Are we to be forgiven yet not forgive? This is Jesus' point.

Why must we learn forgiveness?

The human form of life allows us to forget and start with a blank slate. We can learn what we want to learn. We can act with complete freedom. We don't have to have mercy. We don't have to care. We don't have to pray. We can learn what we want and we can set whatever goals we want here.

In the spiritual world, everyone loves each other. Everyone forgives each other. In the spiritual world, everything revolves around God. God is the center. Everyone recognizes this in the spiritual realm.

But in the physical world, we can completely ignore all that. We can even claim there is no God and the only things that exist are what my eyes can see. Now, this is freedom. God is giving us the ultimate in freedom. We can completely escape Him here.

The human form of life can also be a stepping stone back to the spiritual world - if we take it. If we learn to change our consciousness. If we want to change.

Here we have the opportunity to learn to love others. To be kind to others even if they are not kind to us. Here we can learn what forgiveness means. We can learn to forgive by forgiving those who have harmed us.

Again, that is our choice. We can choose to live that sort of life. We can rise to the occasion, and be the kind of person that we wished others would be.

If we come to know and learn to love and forgive, we will have developed the tools to reconnect with the Supreme Being. We will have prepared our consciousness to return to the spiritual world.

Jesus' instruction to his followers is to help them prepare for their return to the spiritual world.

Why is there still suffering if God forgives us?

Yes, the Supreme Being ultimately forgives us and loves us unconditionally. But this does not mean our temporary physical bodies will not suffer the consequences of our previous decisions and actions. Especially those decisions and actions that hurt others.

This is the law of consequences, and it is programmed into the physical world. These temporary physical bodies are designed to incur the results of our actions. If we hurt others' bodies, our bodies will be hurt. If we help others' bodies, our bodies will be helped.

This is God's perfect design because this allows us to learn. If we have harmed or abused others, we get to learn what it feels like to be harmed or abused ourselves. This helps us understand what it feels like. It is school. It is an opportunity for rehabilitation.

But these physical bodies are still temporary. They are like automobiles and we are like the driver who gets into the car to drive it. And just as getting a flat tire on the car doesn't harm the driver, the sufferings of the physical world occur for the body. Our spiritual self is only affected by the learning that takes place here.

And what are we supposed to learn from the rehabilitation center of the temporary physical world? We are here to learn how to love. We are here to learn how to forgive. We are here to learn how to have mercy for others.

Just as God loves us and has mercy on us.