If you are reading this and love math, you are in the right place. If you are reading this and hate math, you are also in the right place. I have a math problem that needs to be solved that I doubt many will understand or realistically be able to answer. What is 70 X 7? Answer? Well it’s 490, right? Wrong. The real answer is Infinity. Now before confusion and judgement toward my math abilities become relevant, let me explain. I’m not talking about math here, it’s actually something much bigger than that: I’m talking about forgiveness. It’s a word we are taught from a young age. It’s one that is preached on at every pulpit. It’s a word so commonly used, I don’t think we understand what it truly means.
70 X 7 = Infinity
In Matthew chapter 18: 20-21, Peter asks a question, one in which Jesus answers back with a math problem: “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” and Jesus responds with seventy times seven. Jesus answered Peter’s question not with an inaccurate mathematical solution, but with a strong point. It’s not that we have a limited number of times we are able to forgive, rather we are called to forgive more than just 490, but to forgive an infinite amount of times. So for every hurtful word said to you, you need to forgive. For every wrong action done to you, you need to forgive. Okay, now that the math lesson is over, there are some new problems that are needing solutions.
There is a phrase that many people use: Forgive and forget. But again, there is actually a lot of misunderstanding in this phrase. To forgive is not to let go of the thought from your mind, but instead to let go of feelings of resentment, anger, and disgust. When we forgive, we are allowing ourselves to detach our human and natural feelings from a situation of hurt and giving instead grace and mercy for those who cause us harm. For this is what Jesus has done for us, by dying on the cross for our sins. The wrath of God could, and really should consume us all for the things we have done to hurt him and his creation, but instead, he chooses to love us and forgive us of all we have done wrong. Jesus continues in Matthew 18 talking about this. He begins by talking about a king, who was to settle his debts, and when he went to ask for one man’s payment, the man had none. This man had an astronomical amount to pay back (10,000 talents, which is equal to about 2 Billion dollars today), and pleaded to the king not to take away his life, family, and belongings. Jesus continues by saying that the king had so much compassion for the man that he canceled his debts and let him off free. This is how God forgives us. We have sinned so much that it is too much to pay back, but God forgives us our debts, because he loves us and has compassion on us. But in the story, the man did not understand the concept of infinite forgiveness, rather he turned to have the debts owed him returned. When the man owing him money pleaded, he had no mercy on the man (who really owed him like 10 dollars) and had him put in prison. When the king found out about this, he reversed his order. At the end of the passage, Jesus brings it back, stating that if we are unable to forgive one another, like that of the king, and instead act like the man, then God himself will not show mercy on us. To forgive, for us, is to realize that we are forgiven so we must also act in the same accord.
We forgive infinitely and we forgive just like our king, Jesus, who forgave us of all of our sins. But do we ever forget the pain that was caused us? Do we forget the harm that was done? How do we react to these situations that we know are going to happen to us again and again? Forgiveness does not mean that we are to forget what happened, that would be unbiblical. For Jesus will judge us according to our lives. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Christ will judge all in the body of believers according to their actions, whether it be good or evil. There is no escaping the responsibility and consequences for what we have done. But, in Christ there is no condemnation, as it is said by Paul in Romans 8:1-2. We are set free. He has forgiven our debts. We all will answer for our actions before Christ. We all are required to give an account. He does not forget the sins we have committed, rather he chooses, time after time, to give us mercy and grace. God doesn’t just say, “I forgive you,” and then moves on. He loves us so much more that he forgives us for eternity. He forgives infinitely. So, we do not forget what has been done to us, rather, we wake up every morning, choosing to forgive, remembering what Christ has done for us and what comes because of this. We choose not to forget, reacting differently, in truth and love, toward those who have hurt us, while still choosing to forgive, day after day. Forgiveness is not a natural inclination we have, rather it is a choice we make every day. We separate ourselves from anger and resentment, loving those who have wronged us.
When we are wronged we know that consequences will be prevalent in our relationships. Healing is a process, not an over-night fix. There are going to be differences in our interactions after harm is done. Sometimes we can’t share as much with them. Maybe it requires some time apart. Maybe we cannot trust them fully as before. But this is okay, for all actions have consequences, but like the man in the story, our actions have consequences too, and not forgiving someone doesn’t fly. We let go of anger and come alongside them, to talk and discuss our hurt and pain, but we remember that we must set up boundaries in our relationship. Each situation is unique, but we react in a new understanding, one of love and truth, choosing to forgive, but not forget. Forgiveness is more than an equation to be figured out. It is of infinite value and we must share it because God shared his forgiveness with us. We cannot forget the scar from the hurt that has been done, but we can respond in a matter of love and truth.