They must have thought He was crazy.
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?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven!”
Seventy times seven. Four hundred and ninety. 490!
We know any long term relationship, whether it is with friends, family, spouses, or children, will be filled with both joy and miscommunications, comfort and challenges. To forge any lasting bond, forgiveness must be part of the love language of any relationship.
The point Jesus was making when he said we should forgive “seventy times seven” was that we should always forgive. But are there any situations where we would need to forgive one person so many times? 490?
Sometimes it’s not individual offenses that add up.
Sometimes it’s the repercussions.
Because some sins have an echo that lasts a lifetime.
When commitments are broken, when trust is shattered, or when we are victims of abuse or negligence, there is more to an offense than the initial wound.
– Infidelity in a marriage may lead to a divorce where there is loss of financial security. We may have to give up a house or even file for bankruptcy. We may need to go back to work and put the kids in daycare. Now the children are shuffled back and forth on holidays and weekends. We may suffer from depression. All because of infidelity.
– A friend betrays us at work and now we are out of job. Our reputation may have been tarnished unjustly. We may have financial hardships that affect our family. And we question our judgement in people and whether we should trust again. All because of a betrayal.
– A drunk driver crashes into our car. There are medical bills that will not be covered by insurance. The physical wounds can take months to heal and during that time the emotional toll can be severe as we can’t live our life. All because of an act of negligence.
Every time there is another consequence to the original offense we have two choices – we can forgive or we can choose bitterness.
We don’t think we’re choosing bitterness. We think we’re holding the people who harmed us accountable for the pain they’ve caused. It seems reasonable. And we should all be accountable for our actions. The problem comes when we hold others accountable for our happiness. When we hold them responsible for our wholeness, our pain, and our future. When we decide we can’t be happy until we get what we deserve from them.
But holding anger or pain in our heart towards anyone, means we live in anger and pain. And that creates a bitter heart.
Bitterness keeps us living in the past as we focus on the one who wronged us.
Bitterness keeps us living as a victim as we wait, in vain, for the one who hurt us to heal us.
That’s why Jesus said we must forgive even “seventy times seven”. Forgiveness doesn’t release the person from accountability. Forgiveness doesn’t erase the past.
Forgiveness is surrendering what has been lost to God knowing He is the source of our joy, our wholeness, and our future.
Forgiveness releases us from living a life of bitterness. It means we stop spending our time counting offenses and start spending our life counting blessings. Forgiveness means we stop looking to the one who betrayed us to fix us, and turn the One who Loves us to free us!
Forgiveness allows us to stop clinging to the idea of a resurrected past as the only way to happiness, and start living the life in front of us!
Because it’s the only life that matters. It’s the only life we have.
And it can be enough.
One of my favorite promises is “I will restore the years the locust have eaten.” He doesn’t change the past, but He can create a future where you are whole. Fixed. Like you were never broken. Or as a friend of mine says- even though you’ve come through the fire, you don’t smell like smoke.
So we must forgive. Every time. Every time the phone rings and it’s a bill collector for a responsibility that shouldn’t be ours. Every time we kiss the kids good-bye on a holiday that used to be a family affair. Every time we think about the fact that our pain is a result of someone else’s actions – we forgive. Even 490 times.
Because when we forgive, we turn our attention from the imperfect person who hurt us, to a perfect God who is for us!
We change our focus from weakness to Strength. From pain to Love. And as we look for the gifts from the Giver of all good and perfect gifts, we see that we have more than we imagined. That He is working in our life and we are not alone.
You don’t have to carry those offenses any longer. You don’t have to focus on the pain. You can give your pain to the only One who can heal it. And start living a new life.
One where you don’t smell like smoke.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
Scripture References: Matthew 18:21-22; Joel 2:25