The Mathematics of Forgiveness
Then Peter came to Him and said, Lord, how often shall someone sin against me and I have to forgive him? Up to seven times? And He said to him, I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to 70 times seven.
Which is an amazing statement. I want you to notice that Simon Peter was trying to define forgiveness as a mathematical equation. What is in a number? Everything, including a command to forgive.
I always struggled with math in school. I hated it. I despised it and skipped it all that I could. That’s why we have a financial department and a chief financial officer. I don’t like to do it. I do it out of necessity – but I hate it, and I have to force myself.
If I go pay for a bill in a restaurant –I just round off the tip. I don’t like to sit there and count with my fingers. There are people who are gifted in that. They’re incredible. They’re just into every little detail. They have spreadsheets and they are amazing.
But some are good at it, and some are not. But we’ve learned how to keep count really well when it comes to people hurting us. We can add up words and actions that people said years ago. We can compile hurts, and we can hold that stuff forever, mathematically, in our minds.
Most of the hurts in life will come from people who you’ve loved the most, who you have trusted the most, and who you have helped the most. One of the questions that all of us struggle with is the boundaries of forgiveness. Are there boundaries to forgiving somebody? Is it biblical to write someone off?
What about a spouse that’s cheated on you? What about the person who has been molested by someone? What about senseless acts of violence? What are there boundaries on forgiving somebody and what they’ve done?
What about the people that we have to forgive over, and over, and over, such as someone with an addiction problem? They get better, and then they have a relapse, fall off the wagon again, and again, and again, and again. And all the trouble comes back in the home, over, and over, and over again.
Is forgiveness one-sided? Can you forgive and forget? Is that even possible?
Jesus is not suggesting a number. He’s giving us a new math formula. He was saying you can never stop forgiving others, regardless of how deeply and how often they’ve hurt us. Peter thought that he was proposing a generous standard. Seven times. But instead, Jesus ups it exponentially, and says no, not seven times Peter. You must forgive seven times 70.
- Forgiveness is not about keeping score. It’s about losing count. What was Jesus really saying? He was saying you cannot start keeping score if you’re going to be a forgiving person. It’s not about keeping score; it’s about losing count. If you forgive somebody 490 times in a day, that’s an offense every two minutes that you have to forgive, and it’s continual. In other words, it’s not about keeping score. It’s about just absolutely losing count.
- Forgiveness is not denying what happened. It’s acknowledging it and owning it. You’ve been hurt deeply, but it’s not about waiting for an apology. Forgiveness is not keeping score.
- Forgiveness can bring out the best in you. Sometimes the best in us can only be brought out by the worst done to us. We don’t like it, but the truth is that the best of you will never be released, sometimes, until the worst has been done to you. Usually it will be done by people who you have loved, trusted, and helped the most. And God never intends for that to destroy you if He allows it. It’s not God doing it. It’s people. But if you will allow it, the best will come out of you. You have to use the name of Jesus and plead the blood.
- Forgiveness opens you to higher levels of blessing and anointing. Jesus said ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you shall find. And keep on seeking. Knock and it shall be opened. If it doesn’t happen, keep on knocking. If you don’t release forgiveness, you will not receive forgiveness.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to keep those who hurt you in your life.
- Do you struggle with forgiveness? Why?
- What keeps you from freely forgiving others in your life?
- Can you move in the direction of forgiveness with Jesus’ example?
- How much has God forgiven you for in your life?
- Can you now share this with others with God’s help?
The Bible can be a great math tutor when it comes to how many times you are to forgive. It tells us exactly what to do in math when it comes to loving and forgiving people who have hurt us. How many times? How many times does a friend get to stab me in the back before I’m done with them? This is serious stuff. This is life or death. This is eternal stuff. Jesus can change our hearts, if we ask Him to.
Quit playing games and say Lord, I need to tear up the spreadsheet. I need to quit keeping count and keeping score, and I need to lose count. I need to understand that what they’ve done to me is just supposed to bring out the best in me. I have no choice. No decision but to live a lifestyle of constant forgiving. It’s not just a mathematical equation. It’s a lifestyle that says I refuse to live in the poison of un-forgiveness.