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Seven or Seventy Times Seven?

Seeing the title of this blog, I hope you won't be tempted to avoid reading it. I want to encourage you all to read it as it is Truth that effects our own forgiveness of personal sins.

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matthew 6:14-15 NASB)

It is amazing that many Christians do not seem to understand Jesus' teaching on the utter necessity to forgive others their sins, in order for we, ourselves, to be forgiven by God. It seems to be much easier to hold back forgiveness, cling onto our humanistic right to hold grudges, to justify our feelings and attitudes that we have been wronged and offended, and that we have reasons to behave as we do. We just write off the offenders and no longer have anything to do with them.

This is not a biblical attitude or behavior. It is a worldly rather than Christian mind-set. All we need to understand and do is to be obedient to Jesus' teaching and realize the dire consequences of not following His teaching!

One of the serious barriers to our relationship with God is lack of forgiveness of those who have sinned against us or offended us. Jesus told us that as our relationship with others goes, so goes our relationship with God. To be in right relationship with God means to be in right relationship with other people, even our enemies. Jesus said we are not only to forgive our enemies, but love them. "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 6:44 NASB)

Therefore, one of the serious obstructions, hindrances, or obstacles that keeps our own sins from being forgiven by God is our own unforgiveness of others, regardless of who they are and what they have done. This is not my interpretation of Jesus' teaching; it is the literal statement of Jesus! I am only quoting what He said.

Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, had a problem with this teaching. He asked Jesus: "Lord, how many times shall I forgive. . . , up to seven times?" Jesus answered with these words: "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22) Peter, using the number seven (understood to be the perfect number) thought he was going way beyond what would be appropriate or expected. But he soon heard from Jesus, who used the perfect number in the broadest terms. Jesus meant our act of forgiving

other people must be unlimited in number and scope and actually is meant to be infinity.

As Jesus hung on the cross for our sins and punishment, He prayed: "Father, forgive them. . . ." He asked His Father to forgive those who mocked, abused, beat and crucified Him. Well, that was Jesus we say, we can't do that. But since Jesus lives in us, He also lives through us. That means He can forgive others through us, as He enables us by His Holy Spirit to forgive.

The Scripture is clear about our personal responsibility to forgive other people. "Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving one another; AS the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive." (Colossians 3:13) "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, AS God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32) In the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, the following words are included: "And forgive us our debts AS we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12) Note this: willingness to forgive and seeking restoration is our responsibility; the response of the other person is their responsibility and is left to them and God. Sometimes reconciliation is not possible if the other person rejects us. And, forgiveness does not always mean continued fellowship or friendship.

The teachings of Jesus and of the Scripture are absolutely clear and unmistakable. AS we forgive others, we will be forgiven by God; if we refuse or fail to forgive other people, God will not forgive us. Again, this is not my interpretation, but is a direct teaching of Jesus! (Matthew 6:14-15)

Who, in our life, do we need to forgive? We should not put it off! If there is an offense between us and another person, hindering us from following Jesus in total obedience, we must take the initiative in seeking resolution and restoration. Jesus said: "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar (worship), and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." Make friends quickly with your opponent. . . ." (Matthew 5:23-25a NASB)

Forgive quickly! We never know what the future holds; anything can happen and it's possible time will run out on our opportunity to forgive that person. How tragic that would be, possibly causing long term regret and remorse! Let's make sure that does not occur. We will inevitably experience and inflict hurts in our relationships here in this life. Without forgiveness, however, our relationship can become brittle and bogged down by anger and resentment of those wounds. Learning to embrace forgiveness opens us up to peace with God and man, growth and even s stronger relationship. Let's be intentional about this.

Forgiveness originates in the soul, is confirmed in the mind, and results in action motivated by our will! Forgiveness releases all involved in a conflict from hurt, anger, bitterness and resentfulness.

Aren't we so very glad and blessed that God is so quick and thorough in forgiving us and showing us mercy and grace in spite of our unworthiness and sin? The Scripture declares: "I, the Lord, am a God who is full of compassion (mercy) and pity, who is not easily angered and who shows great love and faithfulness. I keep my promise for thousands of generations and forgive evil and sin." (Exodus 346-7)

Since this explains how God deals with us, should we not treat others in the same way? Who do we need to forgive; to whom do we need to extend mercy and grace in the Name of Jesus?

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God has blessed me with a long and fruitful ministry! I have over 40 years in pastoral ministry, retreat speaking, Evangelism, teaching and Christian Radio broadcasting.

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