Seventy Times Seven

There have been volumes written on the subject of forgiveness, so one blog post won’t even scratch the surface. As an American, our Christian values are sometimes altered or tend to take on a mutated form of the original core definition. In America we have ‘rights.’ We lay claim to these ‘rights’ as given to us from the Creator, it says so in our Constitution. I’m so thankful for these ‘rights’ but the question we have to ask ourselves is which world are we living for, this present world, or the place our Creator has prepared for us?

We live in a world full of imperfect humans, therefore we will all make mistakes and are all in need of forgiveness at one time or another. These mistakes are generally understood and easily forgiven, but even the smallest of mistakes, repeated too many times becomes almost unforgivable. It is easy to forgive someone the first time, maybe even a second time, but after that is pushing the limits. Someone asked Jesus the question, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me, seven times? Jesus answered, not seven, but seventy times seven. I’m pretty sure that Jesus did not expect this person to start keeping track of every wrong and when a person reached 491, put some kind of mark on this person labeling him or her as unforgivable. Jesus was saying that He expects us to forgive every time!

‘See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (ESV) From Leviticus in the Old Testament to Romans in the New Testament, it is declared that, ‘ Vengeance is mine, sayeth The Lord.’ When we refuse to forgive and choose to make people pay for their wrongdoings, we are stepping in the jurisdiction of God’s territory. We are not trusting that God is ultimately keeping track and that everyone will have to answer for every act of sin if not covered by the blood through repentance. We have been empowered by the teachings of the day we live in that we must set boundaries in order to protect ourselves, or that we should rid ourselves of those who do not benefit our lives.

I remember watching Oprah one time interviewing a woman whose daughter had been the victim of a horrific crime. They were also interviewing the person who committed the crime by satellite from his jail cell. This woman was telling Oprah how she had forgiven him. As a Christian, she felt that it was necessary to do this. I have to believe that had to be very difficult, if not close to impossible, but I remember the woman appearing to be at peace. You could tell that she was genuine. Just like the quote says, ‘Forgiveness does not excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.’

We have to be careful. It is human nature to rate sin. We have a good idea of which sins we can forgive instantly, which ones will require some penance, and which ones are pretty much never going to be forgiven. Of course this thinking will be the death of us. Again, this is not our job and God does not rate sin. Any sin in our lives not covered by the blood will keep us out of heaven, but God alone is the judge. He does not need, nor does he want our help in the matter.

Ephesians 4:32 ‘And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.’

Matthew 6:14-15 ‘For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’

This is a hard, but necessary lesson to learn. Jesus taught this by example on the cross. Luke 23:34 ‘Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.’ Stephen, as a follower of Christ, continued this example while being stoned to death.

Bottom line: forgiveness is the key to eternal life. We must receive it and we must give it, seventy times seven times.