Seventy Times Seven

John Maassen

READ : Matthew 18:21-35

“Seventy times seven” is four hundred and ninety; we can “do it in our heads.” “But,” as someone has said, “this is heavenly arithmetic: we must `do it in our hearts.’” The rabbis had set the reasonable limit for forgiveness at three times. Peter with a new-found generosity had suggested seven. But Jesus sets the standard at infinity, “Always forgive.”

Unconvinced we are tempted to retort, “Yes, but . . .” “Yes, but what if the offender isn’t sorry for what he did?” “Yes, but would it work?”

A person repents because of the work of the Holy Spirit in his or her life. It is basically not our concern. The law is not invalidated, for the forgiven one must still face justice. We are to love him in any case.

Forgiveness does work! Has anything else? Anger? Revenge? Holding a grudge? Each of these negative responses is not only ineffective but each of them poisons the wells of our spirits.

Jesus forgives us to infinity. He had to go to the Cross to make it possible. But what a marvelous gift He has given us! Forgiven, we are at peace with God; God is at peace with us!

Let us forgive our resentments. Let us try love and walking the extra mile. They are keys to joyous Christian living. Let us forgive as we have been forgiven, “seventy times seven.”


Dear Lord, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. For Christ’s sake. Amen.