Forgiving 490 times

7 X 70

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know exactly what that means.  Peter comes to Jesus and asks him, “How many times am I expected to forgive the same person?”  I might have phrased it as, “This person is driving me insane.  When can I stop speaking to them?”


Jesus answers with the number 490.  And while there may have been a few people here and there in my life that have tempted me to start keeping track on a big spreadsheet or even just a note on the fridge, I never have.  And I don’t know anyone who actually has.

Its phrased a little differently in Luke 17:3-5: Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.  And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

In both of these passages, we are told to have an unlimited supply of forgiveness.  I feel that I need to cry out with the disciples, Lord increase my faith!

I’ve been having a thought lately.  What if 7 X 70 does not only apply to 490 different sins, but could apply to the same one - my 490 thoughts about it?  I know this is not actually Peter’s question here, but I think the principle is the same.  

Because you see, us humans can’t forget.  The Bible tells us that God remembers our sins no more, but we don’t have that capacity.  And because we, even as the wronged ones, are still sinners, we have a tendency to take back our forgiveness.

I can completely forgive someone.  As in, if they walked up to me today, I could hug them, welcome them, and love them.  And its real and sincere.  Yet the next day I wake up and hatred has planted a seed in my heart again.  Again I cry out, Lord increase my faith, until the root of bitterness is gone.

Sometimes its not the next day, but weeks or even months later, that seed starts to grow.  Maybe some words were said that bring memories flooding back.  Maybe an upcoming event, a text, a Facebook reminder.  For me it can be something as silly as a dream and I’m right back there.  Struggling again.

Lord increase my faith.

Make my faith so strong that I can fight against my own heart, my own mind, my own sinful nature 490 times,  

Because forgiveness is a battle.  Its a war waged over and over in my mind.  490 times.  Or 7 times a day.  Or every morning, every reminder, every hurt.  

And its hard.  Its hard to keep examining myself, preaching to myself, only worrying about my own sin when I’m the one who’s been wronged.  Some days I just want to cut myself some slack and let that seed grow and thrive for a couple of days.  I think about it and nurture those feelings and stay in bed a little longer than I should.  

But praise God I don’t have to fight this battle alone.  Because I would lose.  I would become a miserable, bitter woman.  Instead I can cry out, Lord increase my faith.  Help me one more time.  And one more time after that.  Until eventually, all the thoughts are drowned out, all the memories passed over, all the hurts healed by grace.

Lord increase my faith until there is no more room for unforgiveness.  And then do the same again tomorrow.