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
This is a “Good News” passage of Scripture because it gives us a glimpse into the forgiving nature of God. The underlying message of this interchange between Jesus and Peter is that God is much more prone and committed to forgiveness than we are. The phrase “seventy times seven” is a figure of speech indicating there is no real limit as to how many times a person’s sin will be forgiven. While it is a challenge to the likes of Peter who must forgive the repeated sinner, it is wonderful news for those who struggle with the shame of repeated sin.
As Shakespeare said so eloquently “To err is human; to forgive [is] divine.” Much of human experience is designed to convince us of our need for the divine. There is nothing like our human depravity to drive us to acknowledge the desperate need for a forgiveness that is divine.
This “seventy times seven” teaching of Jesus illustrates this truth. Such unlimited and unending forgiveness can only have its source in the divine. Jesus’ expectation of Peter, and all of us for that matter, is that we draw on His divine nature of unlimited forgiveness for ourselves and thereby be enabled to dispense the same to others.
There is a delightful analogy, not original with me, that portrays the genius of God in His readiness to forgive. It illustrates how His loving kindness overrules the alienation we feel when we sin by replacing it with loving acceptance.
Envision God in heaven holding each person by a string. When you sin, you cut the string. Then God ties it up again, making a knot – and thereby bringing you a little closer to him. Again and again your sins cut the string – and with each further knot God keeps drawing you closer and closer.
Such was the case of the woman, a notorious sinner, who came to Jesus weeping and lavishing her love upon Him by washing His feet with her tears. “Therefore I tell you,” said Jesus, “her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47 ESV) Such loving forgiveness from God naturally engenders a devout love in return.
God’s math and God’s ways continually defy human understanding. His ultimate purpose, in and through our cutting ourselves off from Him through sin, is always to reconnect us to Himself. We must never forget that no matter how many times our sin severs the string, God will always tie a new knot and draw us closer.
I would be interested in your thoughts about this important topic.
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