I attended a Christian elementary school as a child. The same one my son attends today. Every year there is a tradition of a class musical that has a biblical message and catchy tunes. I loved these (so does my son.) And there was one particular song called “70x7” that stuck with me all these years.
I can’t remember the tune or much of the lyrics, but it was a reflection on Matthew 18:21-22, where Jesus’ disciple asked him how many times he has to forgive someone. (I’m guessing here, but I have a feeling Peter had someone in mind.) And Jesus replied, not seven, but seventy times seven. An example that means the number of times is infinite. Because the number of times we ourselves need a Savior and the forgiveness He offers is infinite.
As I child I thought this was A LOT. I was just learning multiplication that year and remember thinking -“490, no way one person could mess up that many times!” Ha! The innocence of youth.
But I really internalized this message. The simple and incredibly complex message that, we are forgiven and so we forgive.
I desperately need forgiveness. From my Savior. Also from the people around me. My husband, our children, my family, co-workers, the lady at the grocery store who I cut off in the parking lot, the telemarketer I hung up on, my-ex, my friends, the list goes on and on.
My past is littered by the poor choices I’ve made, and things I’ve done unintentionally and intentionally to hurt the people in my life. I’m acutely aware that I am flawed and mess up frequently. I need 70x7 from them.
We live in a world where often the message is one of intolerance. A message that people who mess up don’t deserve your forgiveness. If someone hurts you deeply, cut them out. There is a difference between forgiveness and putting one’s self in a position of harm, so there are times that this may be sound advice. For me, forgiving first (even if it takes me awhile to get there) is the first thing I have to do to be able to move forward, and have the clarity to understand how best to interact with the person in the future. But forgiveness is offered, because it’s been given to me. 70x7.
I distinctly remember a mean-girl-bully I experienced growing up. She made me cry. All. The. Time. But I couldn’t cut her out. I tried to ignore her and play with someone else, but eventually I’d find myself wrapped in hopefulness that we could be friends. 70x7.
I’m still wired like this today. My response is usually still tears. Much more swearing now (I definitely need Jesus.) But then I go back to hopefulness. 70x7.
This might be very foolish. Perhaps still naive to believe the best in people after they’ve done something to hurt you. But I hope that’s what they’ll do for me. So I can’t help but offer forgiveness and a path forward. 70x7.
I re-read the passage again this morning looking for somewhere Jesus promised this would be easy. He doesn’t. (Peter was probably hoping this would be the next part of the conversation too.)
Please, I beg you, don’t read this as me trying to be self-righteous. I assure you there are times I don’t want to forgive. I don’t want to move forward. I wait too long to offer forgiveness. I choose to hold on to the anger and pain. But that always eats me alive. So forgiveness always wins. 70x7.
I cannot live this life without the promise of forgiveness from my Risen Lord. I need His forgiveness into eternity. I take that seriously.
And so even through the pain, I will have hope, and I will forgive again and again. Because I need it too. 70x7.