What am I talking about? Forgiving someone seventy times seven?
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matt. 18:21-22 ESV
That is 490 times! That’s a lot! So to show you what great lengths I go through to provide you with detailed information, I started the stopwatch on my phone, while I counted up to 490. It took 3:01 minutes. 3:01 minutes x 60 seconds in a minute = 180.6 seconds. 490 divided by 180.6 = 2.71 “forgives” per second! I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone who would do me harm 490 times a day, much less once every 2.71 seconds.
Scriptures About Forgiveness
Although Jesus did not say seventy times seven per day in the above verse, he does specifically say “per day” in others.
In Luke 17:4 (NIV), Jesus says, “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’, forgive him.”
In Matt 6:11-12, Jesus is showing us how to pray. “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Right after the prayer, he also says in verses 14 & 15 (NIV), “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive yous sins.” I take these verses to mean that each and every day we must pray for our forgiveness, and for the power to forgive those who sin against us.
In the Bible, seven is the number of completion. An example is Gen. 2:2-3 (NIV)
“By the seventh day God finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he ceased from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he ceased from all the work of creating that he had done.” The footnote in the NIV Bible says the word ceased was used instead of rested.
Continued Action to Forgive and Receive Forgiveness
Seventy signifies spiritual perfection. So seventy times seven means we need to forgive someone completely, and not let it continue to fester or play over and over again in our minds. I usually have a whole movie theater going on in there, complete with surround sound, casting myself in the lead role of martyr, of course. May I have the envelope, please? And the award for best drama queen goes to…me! Not good. Not good at all.
The only way we can get rid of it is through the spiritual perfection of Jesus, in us. The theme song from the Disney film Frozen is appropriate here, LET IT GO! (I now offer my sincere apologies if that song is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day.)
We need Jesus to work in and through us. How? Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23 (TLB) “Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him every day and keep close to me!” The footnote for this verse in the NIV says that to follow Jesus requires self-denial, complete dedication, and willing obedience. Luke emphasizes continued action.
We must die to self daily. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20 NIV
Jesus Our Example for Forgiveness
Since Christ lives in me, I must allow his life to flow through me and choose to do so daily, through faith. It doesn’t matter if they are sorry or not. I must forgive as He forgives. He washed the feet of all the disciples before the Last Supper. That means He got on his knees, became a servant and hand washed the dirt off the feet of Judas, knowing full well that he would betray him shortly. I want to give that kind of forgiveness.
While he was hanging on the cross, He was already becoming our intercessor with God. He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 NIV He was asking God to forgive us, with himself as the bridge between both worlds. I have actually begun to use that exact phrase, praying it silently, when someone wrongs or harms me and helps me put it in perspective what Jesus did to forgive me, and I know I must do the same for others.
It is very freeing not to carry that burden. It is like the saying, “Unforgiveness is like taking poison while waiting for the other person to die.” Not a very pleasant way to go through a day. You will be better off without that on your back.
God’s Faithfulness and Blessings
A good example is Job, whom the Lord said was a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. Satan asked, and received permission to test Job. All sorts of horrible things happened to Job and his family. His three friends began to tell Job all the reasons why they thought these things befell him. On and on they went. Finally, God told Job who was in charge of everything. Now here’s the kicker. After Job prayed for those who spoke against him during his suffering, God restored all he had lost and doubled it! (See Job 42:10)
After he prayed for forgiveness for his friends, God listened and granted his request. Wow! A good lesson for us to remember. Forgive others as God forgives us, and we will be blessed! Not necessarily with material things, like Job, but the peace of God which passes all understanding. Much better than a festering, angry soul.
I’m am also glad to know that “Great is his faithfulness; his loving kindness begins afresh each day.” Lam. 3:23 TLB
It is similar to receiving manna from heaven. He gives me exactly what I need for that day. I just have to trust him to provide, and go out and gather it. So as I choose to forgive seventy times seven, he is faithful to help me with it each and every day. It comes down to, would I rather be right, or right with God?
We are all struggling with something, and the world does not revolve around me and my problems. So I need to make an effort to be aware of that and forgive others so that when I screw up, I could hope for the same mercy from them. Treat others as I want to be treated. Then I’m closer to the ideal of 490, completed spiritual perfection.
In closing, I believe Plato, the Greek philosopher, said it best: “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a difficult battle.”