In Matthew 18:21–22 we find one of the most powerful lessons Jesus ever taught. This lesson was on forgiveness. He gave it because Peter approached Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
We give Peter a bad rap, but you have to admit he is one brave, bold dude. I have a sneaky suspicion he had someone in mind that he had already forgiven six times. I mean, why else ask this? You don’t really ask about having to forgive someone unless you need to do it. He just might have been ready to go ahead and write that person off and was looking for some confirmation. Whether or not this was his actual thought process, he was in fact looking for a forgiveness formula.
To which Jesus responds, “No, not seven times. Seventy times seven.”
If you’re one of those that are not good at mental math, the answer to the equation is 490. This can be read to mean we are to forgive the same person 490 times each day. That is a lot of forgiving to do. In order to do this, you would have to commit one act of forgiveness about every three minutes, basically spending the whole day just forgiving someone!
But this statement is not just about the numbers. Jesus was giving us a new math formula, a new set of truths for walking in forgiveness.
The first truth is this: Forgiveness is not about keeping score. It’s about losing count. If you were to truly try and count to 490 when forgiving someone, my bet is you would lose count pretty quick.
We are all going to get hurt in one way or another.
Someone will let you down.
Someone might lie to you.
Someone might lie about you.
Someone might gossip about your marriage.
Someone might steal your money.
Someone might steal your spouse.
Someone may have abused you verbally, mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally.
Someone may have harmed your child.
While getting hurt is a reality for this fallen world, getting and staying bitter is a reaction. Unforgiveness will only eat away at you like a poison. We must live a lifestyle of constant forgiveness. This is not about satisfying the requirements of a mathematical equation.
We must forgive. All the time. Forgiving is not easy. Forgiving is not fun. But forgiving is necessary.
How can we expect to be forgiven if we do not forgive?