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The Amazing Do-Over: Day 1

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  
Matt. 18:21-22

This week I am inviting you to join me on a journey. This journey is toward an understanding of the radical nature of true forgiveness as God intended it to be practiced.

The starting point is in familiar territory with the all-too-recognizable truth about most of us regarding forgiveness. And Peter is the perfect spokesperson. As he saw it, forgiveness is personal. When I forgive, if I forgive, how and how often I forgive a particular person or situation, is my call. They have up to seven generous chances to get it right.

But when Peter runs it by the Lord, Jesus answers with a number that is variously interpreted as seventy-seven, seventy times seven, or even a number that means seven to the seventieth power. Even the smallest of these numbers is one that any sincere legalist would find difficult to keep up with.

Commentators tell us that in Peter’s thinking the number seven was calculated to win some points with the Teacher. The acceptable figure was around three offenses. But whether it was three or seven or ten, forgiveness, as Peter saw it (and often as we see it), had a heavy “keeping score” component.

Truth be told, it isn’t only keeping score, it is assigning a weight to the evidence. Our feelings, our slights and insults, our losses, our side of the story. That is where the truth lies and where the quest for justice should begin.

However, if we are followers of Jesus Christ and citizens of God’s kingdom, we are called to radically different understanding of how forgiveness operates.

Remember I said it was a journey and, for most of us, one that will take our lifetime. As the old saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And when it comes to truly understanding forgiveness that step ought to be in the right direction or nothing else really matters.

Nancy Shirah

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