My daughter recently asked me if that means she only has to forgive her little sister 490 times. "Jesus said seventy times seven, mom!"
I smiled. “Have you been counting?”
She hadn’t. But she understood. And it's a tough pill to swallow - for grown ups too.
Have you ever been wronged Momma? Does it distract and burden you, keeping you up at night and fueling your frustration at your kids and everyone else? Which one of us hasn’t struggled over these things?
“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt 18:21-22).
The word actually means “to suffer”. So you could read the verse like this: “Suffer your brother (or sister) seventy times seven.” And that’s a lot.
I used to think that we should forgive and move on. I was surprised that when I forgave, even if the person does nothing else, I often need to forgive them again and again for the same thing - because I am still suffering the debt.
We choose to forgive, but we carry the burden much longer than that moment of choice, don't we? I recently walked through a rough situation with a dear friend, and the burden of bitterness was worse than the offense.
So over and over again, we walk that path up to Golgotha like the Lord and we suffer the cost of the wrong that was done to us. We know it, we feel it, we’re drowning in it, then we forgive. We literally join Him in His suffering, as we suffer for our brother or sister.
And it happens, over and over again - the remembering, the suffering, the walking up the hill, the nailing it to His cross, the refusing to carry it back down. It’s hard and heavy and costly.
Then you see the person again, or something reminds you of the wrong, and you’re off again in your heart, walking up the hill. Forgiveness is a choice. Over and over.
Seventy times seven, there we go again over the same hurt, until the debt is ground down. We have suffered it. Until seeing that person isn't painful anymore. The debt is gone, paid for by the blood of Christ. And then, you can look them in the eye, and there is no more bitterness in your soul. It’s gone.
Then, maybe you’re ready to tell them about it. Not for revenge. For their good. Doing what the Lord told us to in Matthew 18. The beam removed, you can see the speck that’s rubbing their eye raw. That they desperately need help removing. You can help them now because you chose to forgive, again and again. To suffer, until the debt is paid.