“Then Peter came and said to [Jesus], ‘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 [or seventy times seven] times.’”
~Matthew 18:21-22 (NRSV [footnotes added]).
Every Christian, when they read the phrase, “Seventy times seven,” knows where it’s going. It’s about forgiveness and grace—as a response to transgressions mainly.
But the extension is beyond this if we’ll let the Lord show us.
Analysis of Hurt and Wrong
We’re hurt and ‘wronged’ in a flash. For we go from solid adult, who’s in control of their world, to the jaded child in about five seconds.
We’re hurt instantly.
This is because others’ initiations and reactions to us catch us off guard—we’re otherwise asleep to human nature, not only by moral laziness, but also by instinct.
Anticipation Toward Covering for the Hurt and Wrong in Advance
We don’t think in these ways ordinarily. And if only we could, we would save ourselves and the others we relate with (and oppose) much grief, for I’m convinced that all conflict ends in some form of bitterness where forgiveness is not overt—unless for a specially-blessed ‘Mother Teresa’ kind of person. (There are not many going around like this.)
We need to protect ourselves in the wisdom of God here. We will be hurt and this will occur daily.
What we can do is plan for it; expect it. And we compensate for it, for ours and others’ protection—in love.
Making Seventy Times Seven Work
One of the only ways I can see ‘seventy times seven’ working is if we make it such a routine expectation of our going in and going out in life. It’s inherent in the applied life.
This means we expect to be transgressed and we both cover for it and use it to glorify God. This is a trained thing. No one can routinely forgive, moment in—moment out, without practicing same all the time. We only get better at accepting the vulgarities that happen to us; as we practice them.
If we’re going to forgive someone 490 times in one 24-hour period we had best learn right now to guard our pride, think with the higher mind, and stay adult, absorbing the hurt. This is usually only achieved when we’re not inherently hurt in the first instance, i.e. that we’re somewhat free of excess emotional baggage.
But, the thing is, this is an ideal we’re forever to strive for. Forgiveness is difficult and near-on impossible (to this standard) for many, many people.
God understands. He never condemns people who are trying to make it happen.
We make the issues ‘the issue’ and never assume them as personal, even when they’re meant personally. This is a healthy trick of the advocate mind, acting for us, as a lawyer in a court of law.
We never forget that the person we’re looking at or talking to on the phone, is the person God loves as much as he loves us; we never forget that hurt people are seeking to hurt people—compassion for hurt other person is always better than retaliation.
Seventy times seven is requiring from us such a routine and expectant focus; we cannot elude it being a constant thing that’s necessarily front-of-mind. This is its importance for us; it’s primary.
I wonder, from a very simplistic viewpoint, if we might go through life always smiling joyfully from within. Would this ‘smiling’ attribute of the soul, then, gird us in being more instinctively forgiving—not reacting or responding, but just simply loving?
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.