Be Forgiving and Multiply.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite non-toy toys was my Mom’s handheld counter. I don’t know if I liked the clicking noise, how that noise aggravated others lol, or if I simply enjoyed the anticipation of seeing the next number appear.
Maybe it was the thrill of victory to see how fast I could reach 1000, or maybe it was the agony of defeat. See, oftentimes, my thumb got tired and threw up the white flag by pressing the reset button, spiraling the numbers all the way back to 0000.
Back then, I could think of one really good reason to avoid that reset button and start the count all over again – when keeping count of forgiving somebody 490 times, as Jesus said.
Jesus did say that, right?
But, is that what He meant?
How Much Wrong is Forgivable?
Have you been feverishly counting the number of times someone offends you, ready to cut them off at 491? “Sorry, your forgiveness card has expired.”
When reading Matthew 18:21-22 KJV, it’s easy for our child-like minds to wonder, “Umm, Jesus, do you think we could lower the cap on forgiveness a little bit?” Or, perhaps, “Jesus, how do I keep track of 490 wrongs?”
Team, it’s time for us all to stop approaching forgiveness like a child and put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).
There’s a way for mature followers of Christ to intentionally honor Jesus’ play call for forgiveness, without the need for mechanical counters or tally sheets.
It’s Not the Wrongs that Count
Sorry, Team. We’ve been approaching 490 the “wrong” way – by counting the “wrong” things. What’s the “right” way to approach this notion of 490?
One of the devil’s oldest tricks in the book is to keep us stuck, distracted, and unproductive by using our past hurts. Unforgiveness in the dark corners of our heart festers like mold. It breeds bitterness that infects our purpose, our gifts, and renders our anointing ineffective because we’re so broken.
But, here’s the secret to 490. Whenever the enemy presents the pain, the anger, the trauma of offense caused by someone in your life – do the right thing and forgive them – again, and again, and again, and…
Because I can guarantee you – the enemy won’t stop at 1.
Don’t believe me? You’ll be minding your own business and what they did will surface in your spirit out of nowhere – “I forgive you” #1. Years will pass and you’ll meet someone who reminds you of that person who hurt you – “I forgive you” #184. You’ve experienced heartache so deep that you have recurring dreams about what they said to you – “I forgive you” #227, #228, #229!
Get the picture?
With every thought, tantrum, or trigger – Jesus encourages us to do it one more time, forgive!
And, God understands that all of His children are different.
Depending on your thought life and your willingness to forgive, it may take telling your heart 490 times, “Forgive them.” Perhaps in the 50’s, your forgiveness is kicking and screaming. By the 100’s, you’ve stopped plotting revenge, but it still hurts. And, by the 300’s or 400’s? No, the offense is no more pleasant than Day 1. But, there’s a peace that surpasses your understanding. A simple reminder that you have forgiven him or her is all it takes. Whatever your forgiveness journey looks like, God, who is Alpha and Omega, is with you from beginning to end.
So, what’s the play call?
Use God’s good math and count the “right” thing to do, not the “wrong” that has been done. Hand over the counter to God and direct the ledger towards yourself, not the one who hurt you.
Has God ever tallied the number of times He’s had to forgive us? Is any one of us walking around in jeopardy of being separated from God “if we mess up one more time”? God forbid.
Likewise, we are not called to count and ration our forgiveness. But, in the same manner in which God forgives us – numerous times and for much greater offenses – we forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32).