Life / Theology / February 9, 2012

70 x 7

Forgiveness is hard. To willingly and willfully give up your claim on another person because of a wrong done by them is trying.

One of the most famous and most quoted passages on forgiveness is Matthew 18:21 & 22 where Peter asks if he must forgive someone who sins against him even as much as seven times and Jesus gives the famous response: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

The obvious and correct interpretation of this passage is that there must be immense forgiveness for wrongs committed against us, many times more than our human nature is comfortable with. We are to be rich in grace toward those who wrong us over and over again and thus forgive them over and over again for their various offenses. For, if we have been forgiven thousands of times over for our wrong doings by Christ, how can we not also forgive others?

But there is a second interpretation, complimentary to the first, which I think is also true and equally as important. And that is this: we are to forgive the wrong doer seventy times seven for the same singlesin against us.

When someone hurts us deeply it is not as simple as to forgive them and be done with it. It’s not that simple because the hurt runs deep and keeps hurting days, months, years after the initial offense. It’s not that easy because certain words, places, circumstances, or conversations remind us of the hurt over and over again. And it’s not that simple because we’re sinners. When we forgive, it is eroded by our own heart’s bitterness and undermined by our own self-righteousness. It is forgotten in fits of self-pity or anger. Our forgiveness is not a finished or eternal offering.

So we must forgive that single person for that single hurt not just once, or seven times, but seventy times seven. Every time we face those certain words, places, circumstances, or conversations that bring the hurt back we must choose to forgive again.

This kind of forgiveness is, in my experience, the hardest to do, and that’s because the kinds of offenses that require it are the most hurtful. It’s one thing to forgive a brash, loud-mouthed co-worker over and over again because they manage to be offensive with every other sentence. It’s another thing entirely to forgive, daily, the spouse or parent or friend who has undermined your credibility or betrayed your trust. But it is good.

Seventy times seven means far more, but never less, than forgive each time you are wronged. It means forgive offenses to completion even if that means a daily, or even hourly, decision to let the debt go.




2 Comments

Feb 09, 2012

Great post. Peacemaker Ministries has “Four Promises of Forgiveness” that help put people put this into action:
1.”I will not dwell on this incident.”

2.”I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”

3.”I will not talk to others about this incident.”

4.”I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”


Feb 09, 2012

I think we’ve all experienced that one particular offense that we feel somehow crosses the line. We think we’re doing good for forgiving the bulk of the junk people throw at us, so harboring unforgiveness for just one thing is OK. After all, we’re just human, can we really forgive everyone? Not only can we, but we should. As hard as it is, we have to set the bar high here. We know it’s possible because normal, sinful, human people like you and me do it every day. They forgive wicked acts that have been committed against them. Christ empowers us to forgive, and it’s to our own detriment if we choose not to. Thanks for this post, we can never be encouraged enough in this area.



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