“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’” (Matthew 18:21-22, NASB).
Peter asked Jesus this question about forgiveness, quoting the number of times required by the religious law of the day as the number of times to forgive. They took that number literally to mean that after seven times, they were free to hold unforgiveness even if the person was sincere in their repentance.
Jesus’ answer seems to up the number greatly to seventy times seven. But what exactly does that mean? Is it just a bigger number that we can count? If it is just a bigger number that we can count out, what of the teaching in 1 Corinthians 13 where it says that love—God’s kind of agape love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (vs. 5), meaning that it does not add up the insult to be used against someone over and over?
So what does it mean, this seventy times seven? Here’s a possibility.
Seven is the number of the perfection of God. Zero is the number of infinity. Seventy times seven times is telling us that as God forgives perfectly, we are to strive to forgive as He forgives, in infinitum. Only by His grace can we do that. It is a call to rely fully on Him for our ability to forgive those who hurt and offend us.
So how do we do that? I believe God took me deeper into understanding His call to forgive as He does long ago in a personal time of struggle. We will look at that tomorrow.