Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22, NLT)
Okay, let’s do some mental math. Seventy times seven…that would be 490. This is a passage I really enjoy reading. I kind of imagine Peter thinking he’s being pretty generous to forgive someone seven times. But then Jesus tells him that he must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times!
I don’t know about you, but I think I’d lose track before the 490th time.
I think that’s the point, though. I don’t think Jesus is saying, “All right, you have to forgive her 490 times, but when you get to 491, it’s okay to hold a grudge.” Yeah…probably not.
Rather, we will lose track. And because we lose track, we kind of have to keep on forgiving that person indefinitely, because we won’t know when we’ve reached the 491st time. That is the point–we aren’t supposed to stop forgiving someone after a certain number of times.
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
This may seem unreasonable to you. We all have those people in our lives that hurt us, often intentionally. And you just think, “God, why do I have to keep forgiving this person? They’ve done so much to hurt me, and you’re saying I should show them kindness in return?”
Well, God could say the same thing about you. We’ve turned away from Him in sin countless times–far more than 490, I can assure you. And yet He has forgiven us. He sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins, so that we did not have to take that punishment.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)
It seems kind of silly, then, when we complain about having to forgive those around us.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2, NLT)
Love, forgiveness, faith…these are only a few of the things that people will see within us when we strive to imitate God. Things like forgiving others are often not easy. Remember what your Father did out of love for you, and love those around you–even those who have hurt you.