In the Gospel of Matthew, a believer asks Jesus about forgiveness. Apparently, he is struggling with forgiving another believer. It seems he’s forgiven his friend several times already and is now wondering how many times he must keep forgiving him. Of course, he thinks seven times should be fair. No doubt, it was a surprise to him when Jesus responded with “not seven times, but seventy times seven” or 490 times. Whew!  He’s probably not really counting, but that sounds like too much.

Chances are, even the best of us would lose our patience if we forgave the same person for even twenty foibles, so 490 times is just ridiculous! Why not just walk away from the relationship? What good is it to be around someone who is constantly apologizing for what they’ve done?  Of course, you may feel that way when you’re doing the forgiving. You may not feel quite the same way if you’re the one who needs forgiveness. 

One of the things to consider here is that Jesus is talking about forgiveness among believers with this guideline. Perhaps it’s even a way we can take the Lord’s Prayer to heart. After all, doesn’t it say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?” Isn’t this prayer we recite often saying we want God to forgive us the same way we forgive others? It doesn’t say forgive us because we ask you to but forgive us the same way we forgive others. That means the way we forgive one another is a pretty big deal. We might prefer that God would forgive us even more than we forgive others, but the Scripture doesn’t give us that choice. 

Does God have a big computer that keeps tabs on how many times we’ve been forgiven? When it gets close to 490 does He cut us off, decide the relationship isn’t worth it, and tell us He just can’t stand us anymore? No, because He forgives us when we ask with a contrite heart, and He separates our failures from the relationship we share with Him. He moves past the mess we made and gives us a clean slate.

You’re God’s child, and He always gives you room to grow. He wants to give you a chance to do better next time. Yes, sometimes you have to let a relationship go, but forgiveness is a choice and a chance to try again. Every time you say the Lord’s Prayer, you’re reminded about the power of forgiveness. Forgive us our debts, our trespasses, our failings, those thoughtless things we do, as we forgive others. Forgive us, Lord, so we have big enough hearts to forgive one another. 

How many times do you forgive someone then? Every time!