Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22 NLT
The Rabbis of the day taught that people should forgive those who sin against them, however, no more than three times. Peter no doubt thought he was being generous in his question suggesting seven times. Seven is referred to as the number of completeness and perfection (see note below). Peter was probably slightly taken aback at Jesus’ reply. “70 x 7” was His answer. This is symbolic of there being no end to the number of times one was to forgive an offender. The key is that those seeking forgiveness are to display true remorse and a repentant spirit.
It’s not always easy to forgive someone, especially when they have done something highly egregious. How do families forgive the person who raped and murdered their young daughter or sexually abused their little son? It would be extremely difficult without question. It’s only when the Holy Spirit is allowed to take the lead that it can be done. It can be said that the forgiver becomes unburdened and blessed as much, if not more than the one being forgiven. We forgive so that a root of bitterness doesn’t begin to grow. Our finite minds cannot comprehend why things such as those described above take place in the first place. Our faith is shaken to the core and we want so much to ask God why. We need to come to the place where we trust that God has some eternal reason for the events that take place in our lives and the lives of members of our families. It’s much easier said than done and can take years to get to that place. I can’t say I’ve ever had to deal with forgiveness in the face of a heinous crime, but I believe God causes and allowed all things … ALL things for His specific purposes. The fact is that we may never know why, ever. We forgive because we know from God’s example that it’s the right thing to do.
Don’t focus on the offense, focus first on the brutally disfigured body of Christ on the cross, then shift your focus to the throne of the Lord and know that He hurts when we hurt. He will avenge those who have hurt us and never seek forgiveness. Our job is to simply trust Him to comfort us even when our heart is breaking. Until next time, walk with the King and be a blessing!
Resource: Life Application Study Bible New Living Translation, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012.
Note: Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things. According to Jewish tradition, the creation of Adam occurred on October 7th, 3761 B.C. (or the first day of Tishri, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar). The word 'created' is used 7 times describing God's creative work (Genesis 1:1, 21, 27 three times; 2:3; 2:4). There are 7 days in a week and God's Sabbath is on the 7th day. The Bible, as a whole, was originally divided into 7 major divisions. They are 1) the Law; 2) the Prophets; 3) the Writings, or Psalms; 4) the Gospels and Acts; 5) the General Epistles; 6) the Epistles of Paul; and 7) the book of Revelation. The total number of originally inspired books was forty-nine, or 7 x 7, demonstrating the absolute perfection of the Word of God. [ www.biblestudy.org/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible ]