2002-05-15 - 70 X 7
Matthew 18:21,22 "Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'"
If we do the math and follow the letter of the law, seventy times seven is 490 times. This is how forgiving your forgiveness must be. If you want a challenge (and want to fail) try applying the words of Christ as you relate with your family. (You reach sainthood if you hit seven times seven.) But that is the standard, 70 X 7. There are exceptions, of course. If your neighbor has a flock of plastic pink flamingos on his lawn or a family of porcelain gnomes, then mark your calendar today, wait 490 days, and on day 491, get up early and feel free to cut all their heads off. You will have fulfilled the letter of the law and probably endured hours of therapy also. If you have pink flamingos or gnomes on your lawn, I apologize to you, but I needed an example for where I intend to take this.
Fulfilling the letter of the law is not what Christ has in mind here. Fulfilling the letter AND the spirit of the law is what we are called to do. To forgive 490 times is simply not enough though it might be a technical adherence to the response of Christ. What is in mind here is that we must forgive as we have been forgiven. I wish to say that again simply because it is the crux of all I wish to say today. We must forgive as we have been forgiven. Does the forgiveness of Christ end at 490 sins? I sure hope not. I'm in big trouble if it does. I need a well of forgiveness that has an endless supply of mercy and I find that only in Christ. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Forgiveness implies that we hold no grudge against anyone. When you think about it that is quite radical. No grudge? Nope. Nothing? Yes, nothing. If we hold a grudge we have not forgiven. "You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord," Leviticus 19:17, 18. We are to love our neighbors which implies the negative of the positive that not to forgive or love them is to hate them.
Forgiveness even goes further. We are told in Luke 6:27, 28 that we are to love our enemies and do good to them that hate us. We are to bless those that curse us. Want to apply that one? As a Christian, it might be like swallowing nails, but that's the call of Christ to us. When we are wronged we are to return the wrong with love and kindness. "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him," Exodus 23:4, 5. If you are like me you are thinking, "I'll just be a New Testament Christian and say the Old Testament is the old." But we can't do that. The call to love, forgive, and be kind is pervasive in all our Christian duties. I'm not saying it is easy, but rather it is something to live up to.
It is only in Christ that we can ever hope to even seek to accomplish this. But forgiveness in Christ is gratia removens prohibens, that is, it is the grace that removes all impediments. Because we have experienced forgiveness in Christ there is nothing in the way of us forgiving others also. We ought to seek to forgive as we have been forgiven. I would never say that this is easy. In fact, I would look you in the screen and tell you it is impossible, but nevertheless we strive. So don't mark your calendars and put the machete away for day 491. In fact, get on ebay and buy them another pink flamingo for the lawn. That is to be our response. That is what Christ has done for us. None of us, no matter who we are, have done Christ any great service that can compare to the forgiveness He has offered us.
He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins Acts 5:31.
Soli Deo Gloria,