Have you ever struggled with forgiveness? As Red Letter Christians, what does that term, forgiveness, even mean? And when we read in this week’s scripture that Jesus said we should forgive “seventy-seven times” . . . what in the world does that mean?
Clearly Simon Peter was struggling with these same questions when he first asked Jesus the question, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?”
That’s a really good question for all of us to ask, still today.
Of course, Simon Peter, always wanting to impress Jesus, even suggested an answer to his own question: “Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
Now, we should note here that in the rabbinic tradition, it is said that one should forgive a repeated wrong three times. But Simon Peter knew that was probably not going to be adequate for Jesus, so he doubled it and added another one for good measure.
Jesus then, as he so often did with Simon Peter, shocked everyone with his answer: “Not just seven times, but as many as seventy-seven times” — or as it is sometimes translated, “seventy times seven.” If we do the math here, we’re talking about forgiving someone who wrongs us 490 times. That’s a lot of forgiving! It’s probably for this reason that most translators choose the lower number. Why do you suppose that is?
You know, whether it’s 77 or 490 times we’re being asked to forgive someone who does us wrong, it seems like way too many times, doesn’t it? In fact, seven times may seem like way too many for most of us. Isn’t it enough just to forgive without keeping count?
And, particularly in the instance of a terrible wrong, what does this teaching of Jesus really mean as we seek to live it out as Red Letter Christians?
In offering all this repeated forgiveness, does this mean we are supposed to set ourselves up as a punching bag? Submit ourselves to abuse? Allow ourselves to be a doormat?
This Sunday we’ll explore together the truth about how Jesus teaches us to forgive.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.