Read: Matthew 18:21-22
I really believe Peter thought he was being big hearted when he asked Jesus how often he thought we should forgive the same person – like, maybe seven times? I can almost see him swagger a bit while asking.
Jesus comes right back at him with a shocking answer. Not seven times, but seventy times seven. If we take the numbers literally that would be 490 times. But did Jesus really mean to give us a literal number? Or is this a time when numbers in the Bible have deeper meanings than just counting?
In the Bible the number 7 is the number of completeness or perfection. So, maybe Jesus was saying we need to forgive until it is completely, perfectly finished.
I’m reading an inspiring true story entitled “Fire Road.” It is the story of the girl in the picture taken by a photographer during the Vietnam War. She talks about her need to forgive those who dropped the bombs that burned her so horribly and those who mistreated her following her recovery. Her list was quite long, but she shared how she turned the list of those she wanted to kill into her prayer list. As she prayed for and blessed those who offended her, she found forgiveness sweep through her body, filling her with joy and light.
As I read today, I was challenged to think about my own response to those who have offended me. Do I keep the fire of bitterness and hatred raging by gossiping, bad mouthing and spewing hateful words about my offender? Or do I pray for them and ask for God to bless them and fill them with the wonder and knowledge of his love?
How about you? Do you have a list of those who have offended you? Do you keep it current? Are you willing to turn your hatred into love, your bitterness into forgiveness? I believe it can happen when we allow Jesus to penetrate every corner of our hearts and submit our minds and will to him.