The New Math of a Forgiving Heart

Tim Brown

READ : Matthew 18:21-22

Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (v. 22)

Behind Peter’s inquiry is a rabbinic tradition of forgiving a person up to four times for the same offense – once for each point on the compass. Peter’s proposal was to add three acts of forgiveness for the sun, the moon, and the stars. The world wasn’t large enough to hold his forgiving heart, he needed the galaxy. Jesus’ answer brought Peter back to Earth with a thud. “Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’”

We are never closer to God than when we forgive. Of all human acts this is the most divine and necessary. Could a couple remain married “till death do us part” without the capacity to forgive? Do you see any possible way to reconcile the gaping divisions between the races without learning to forgive? Jesus was challenging Peter to hang his vision of forgiveness on the cross, where the sins of the whole world were finally and completely dealt with. And that of course is the very place where we ourselves must go to learn how to forgive as many as seventy times seven!


Father, teach us to forgive as we have been forgiven. In the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Amen.