Forgive, Forgive, and Forgive Again

The Bible is full of commands. The first five books of the Bible (the Torah) are known for having 613 commands. That’s a lot of commands! The most famous of the Bible’s commands are probably the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1–17).

Most people, when they think of commands, they think of terms of what we are told not to do; “do not commit adultery” would be an example of a “do not” command.

There are also positive commands in the Bible. These tell us what we should do. Mark 12:30–31 is an example of this kind of command. It reads,

you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Some of the commands of God are harder to obey than others. For example, I don’t have a difficult time not murdering people. I do have a difficult time, however, with Jesus’s command to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

One of the commands that I struggle with most is from Matthew 18:21–22. It says,

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times (NRSV).

I, as a human being, really struggle with this command. What Jesus is saying is to forgive people as many times as needed. There is no limit.

There is more than one way of thinking of this command. On the one hand, we think of it the way that Jesus describes it. If someone sins against 490 times, you have to forgive them 490 times. This makes me wonder a bit. Is it also possible, that some single sins that others commit against us are so damaging that we may have to forgive them 490 times for that single sin?

Most of the time we think of forgiveness as a one-and-done deal. I want to challenge that. I find it helpful to be mindful of the fact that sometimes we may have to continually forgive someone for the one thing they have done to us. The temptation to be bitter or angry with someone because of what they may have done to us is persistent. Because of that, we have to be persistent in maintaining a posture of forgiveness. 

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.” Don’t let the root of bitterness defile you.

I want to take this one step further still. Is it possible that we sometimes do things, or have things in our past that cause us to need to forgive ourselves 490 times? Have your forgiven yourself?

Forgive, forgive, and forgive again.

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