The 7 Times Forgiveness Question and the Surprising Answer
The Gospel of Matthew (18:21-22) has a record of an important conversation between Peter and Jesus which bothered on the question of forgiveness.
Peter had sought a validation from Jesus on his belief about the subject of forgiveness. But beyond Peter’s wildest expectation, Jesus taught him and the other disciples an expanded lesson of a lifetime.
Was Peter simply trying to show that he was magnanimous, or he merely wanted to validate his 7 times forgiveness theology? Either way, Jesus had him covered.
Validating your beliefs
When you seek information to validate your beliefs, one of two things can happen if you eventually find the truth:
1. If your belief about a subject is right and you come to find the truth, your belief will be validated by the truth you have discovered;
2. But if your belief is wrong, the truth you find will burst your bubble, deflate your ego. But you will be a better person if you would take dressing from it.
The second scenerio was the one faced by Peter in the conversation with Jesus concerning forgiveness:
Peter: Lord, how many times should I forgive my neighbour when they offend me? Is it seven times?
Jesus: Peter, I did not tell you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Wow! Peter was dazed by that response. He just learnt that 7 times forgiveness offered to someone is not magnanimous enough. Four hundred and ninety times was Jesus’ new standard measure.
Of course Jesus was not limiting forgiveness to only 490 times. But that was not what Peter expected to hear. He got the lesson anyway.
Some credits to Peter please?
Despite this shocking revelation from Jesus, I think we should still give Peter some credits here.
First he knew that he ought to forgive his neighbours when they offend him. But he got it wrong when he thought that a neighbor deserves to be forgiven only seven times and not more.
We can see that Peter’s focus was on himself and what he had the capacity to do, without knowing that with a relationship with Jesus Christ, he could have the capacity to forgive infinitely.
Perhaps he had reckoned that he could forgive a person only seven times and nothing more because he couldn’t imagine that one should go on and on doling out forgiveness limitlessly. As we saw, Jesus stretched the limits farther than Peter had imagined.
Another thing we should give Peter some credits for is that he willingly held out his belief about forgiveness against the light of the truth to be revealed by his Master.
I wouldn’t say Peter was testing his popularity by the question he asked. But rather, I can say he was on a quest for the truth. And it paid off because Jesus had the real truth about forgiveness to neighbour revealed to him in a way that he (Peter) never knew.
But then, this revelation of 490 times forgiveness rattled Peter’s theology, deflated his ego and settled the issue once and for all.
What is your take on the number of times we should forgive?
©Copyright 2018 | Victor Uyanwanne
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Hi Victor, we forgive others because we have been forgiven for our sins against God and thereafter we need to be forgiven daily for sins that we may commit, in thought, word or deed. There is no number limit on our sins as there is no number limit on us forgiving others.
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Absolutely Bruce, you are right and I agree with you completely. Thanks for the contribution.