21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Four-hundred-and-ninety times? Seriously?!
It’s got to be a joke, right? Surely Jesus cannot possibly mean this literally? Maybe, as some translations and/or alternate readings say, it really is only seventy…
Uhmm… not sure that really helps that much. Seventy times is an awful lot of forgiveness, isn’t it? I mean, for me to forgive one person seventy times?! Multiply that by all the people in my life on a regular and/or permanent basis and that seems like an impossible teaching.
At least a couple of things come to mind, though, and I think they matter. One is that the grace of forgiving is something that the Holy Spirit empowers us to do; we do not have to rely on human strength alone. Yes, we have to make a choice, but God supplies grace for those tough choices.
Another thing is that the more we practice it, the easier it gets. The more we refuse to do it, the tougher it gets.
In addition, forgiveness can actually be one of the most selfish things we do; it actually benefits us by giving us true freedom. No one who is angry with someone else or carries a grudge against them experiences a truly liberated life. They are chained to that person with bonds that cripple and torture.
Finally, and I realize that I have doubled that “couple of things,” is that either we believe in and practice forgiveness or we don’t. A forgiving heart doesn’t bother keeping count; it just forgives. Such a heart readily adopts, emulates, and models itself after God’s own heart.
After all, do we really want God keeping count on our sins? And if we want God’s forgiveness to continually wash over us like a healing stream, it seems that we should offer more than a trickling faucet to other humans.