Forgiving 490 Times

Gary Bird
Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

There are very few things guaranteed in life. We aren’t promised success, riches, or fame. There is no guarantee of provision, food, or shelter. There is no assurance of a great job, a new car, or even your next cell phone.

One thing we do know with certainty is that we will fail. In fact, we fail so often, we forget about most of the times we have fallen short! Think of all the times we have forgotten to think of others, we let someone down, or even worse, we have disappointed God by disobeying. We are reminded in Proverbs that a just man will fall seven times. This is not to say that we can’t fall more than seven times, but to shed light on the fact that the just man always rises up again.

Peter asked Jesus a question revolving around this topic of falling. However, he failed to see the point of the verse. He saw it as a hard line of when we could stop forgiving someone for their mistakes. After the eighth shot, they were done: no more chances in Peter's eyes.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? [22] Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

As you can see, Jesus quickly corrects Peter’s thinking. The amount of times we should forgive is not seven, but seventy times seven, or 490 times. Did Jesus mean this literally? Of course not!

He further illustrated the point that we are doomed to fail and that we are in desperate need of forgiveness. Getting up is a part of life!

The problem is, if we have ever been hurt, we know it can be hard to forgive. It’s hard to let go of our bitterness towards someone who has purposefully hurt us. Not only are we commanded to forgive those who ask for it in Luke 17:3-4, but we should even forgive when someone isn’t looking for forgiveness.

Bitterness and hate are like sores that eat away at us until there is nothing left. It can destroy our health, spirit, and even our life if we allow it. We all can think of someone who has held a grudge for so long that it literally begins to define them as a person. It shapes their actions, behaviors, and relationships. Why would anyone let someone else have such control over their life?

There is no wonder the Bible is brimming with verses on putting away bitterness and anger. We are told to forgive others so we, too, can be forgiven. The Bible literally tells us not to hold grudges, and that it’s a glory to pass over a transgression by deferring our anger.

Thankfully, our God has this perspective on forgiveness because this allows us to have a chance of favor with God. Forgiving becomes much easier when we remember that we ourselves are forgiven. Jesus calls to Peter’s attention a parable, where a king was owed millions of dollars by a man who could not pay.

During this time, there were no bankruptcy courts or repo men that could help judicially deal with the matter. There was only indentured servitude and debtor’s prison, which all parties agreed to before taking on debt. This meant the man would lose all he had, including his family. The man begged the king to allow him to work off his debt some other way. The king was moved with compassion and forgave the man’s colossal debt.

Well, this forgiven man went about his life and ran into a guy that owed him a couple bucks. This poor man could not pay the forgiven man; and the forgiven man demanded that the poor man be thrown into debtor’s prison.

The king found out what the man had done after the king himself had forgiven this man millions of dollars. The king was not happy that the man could not find it in himself to forgive a couple dollars. Well, the king decided to execute the fullest extent of the law against this man for his inability to forgive, and the man lost everything.

Jesus closes this story in Matthew 18:35 with a warning: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

If you struggle with forgiveness, just remember all the wrong you have done. Remember those you have hurt and disappointed. Recall the times you have let God down and commemorate the thought that God forgave you in your worst state. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If you get to the place where you wonder, “How many times do I need to forgive?” just remember seventy times seven, and start again after that.

Gary Bird

Gary and his family are core members of our church. He assists with multiple minsitries. He and his wife Jessica have four children.

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