In My Father's House

Poems, Prayers, Inspirations, Photos and Musings about life, love and what it means to be a child of the Father

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Forgive My Brother, How Many Times?

Here again is one of Jesus' perplexing arithmetic. (Mt 18:21–19:1). He orders people to forgive their brothers not just seven times but seventy times seven times. One friend commented, if that is so, can I not forgive my brother when he has wronged me for the 491st time? (Recall that 70 x 7 is equal to 490). Again, if we use the arithmetic that our grade one teacher taught us it will get us nowhere near understanding Jesus' parable. Although a little Jewish mathematics will help us along the way.

Remember that for the Jews 7 is a perfect number. And so is 10. 7o then makes it a perfectly perfect number. Now if you multiply a perfectly perfect number with another perfect number which is 7 then you'll get a perfectly perfect perfect number. Confusing? Yes if we just stop at counting the number of times our brothers (or sisters) have wronged us and the number of times that we have had to endure the annoyance, irritation and humility of forgiving them.

What is Jesus really up to? He is telling us that there should be no end to our forgiveness. We must forgive our brothers each and every time they offend us. Yes, that means there should be no end to our forgiveness. As long as we live and we continue to be hurt, we must forgive.

Is this fair? Considering the number of times that we had been forgiven and we are being forgiven in each of our offenses against other people, against ourselves and against God, isn't 490 times too few and too limited? If we just forgive according to our own mathematics then there will come a time (or perhaps it had come already) when there will be no more room for forgiveness. That instead of extending understanding and love toward our erring brothers, we just keep keeping tabs on them and they on us.

Jesus can be very puzzling most times but He always makes sense, mathematically or otherwise.


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