How many times must I forgive?

Peter came up and asked Jesus, “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times? Matthew 18

Another lesson in forgiveness. Okay. I can imagine Peter wanting a simple answer.

But Jesus replies, no, not seven times, rather seventy times seven. Now while my math isn’t all that great, that adds up to almost five hundred. Four hundred and ninety, to be precise: 490!

If the numbers are taken symbolically, 4+9+0 adds up to 13. Thirteen is the number of death and rebirth. And adding 1+3 equals 4, the number of power. The Hebrews from ancient times saw power and symbolism in numbers so this seventy times seven is probably important.

So you could say that if one were to forgive anyone seventy times seven, the repeated act of forgiveness would lead to a transformative and powerful experience.

Forgiveness equals power – not power over, but the power to forgive ourselves.

The first time I was told that forgiving myself could lead to forgiving others for hurts I had experienced, it felt as if I’d been flung against a wall of impossibility. Forgive myself? Myself? I hadn’t caused the hurt to me! Others had!

And yet, when I could finally forgive myself for carrying anger and blame towards others, I was able to put it down. I didn’t have to carry it any longer.

Like seventy times seven, forgiveness is a continuing practice. Almost every day, we can see some affront that could rile us up.

What would our personal world be like if we were to practice forgiving ourselves and, in that process, forgiving others?

Seventy times seven.

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