Seventy Times Seven
It seems to this observer that over the years the failure of two Christians to ask for and to extend forgiveness has been a major barrier to personal spiritual growth and also growth of a congregation. On the one hand, this is surprising, but on the other hand it is not.
It is surprising because Jesus addressed this problem in several places in scripture. He was quite emphatic that when there were problems between two of God’s people they must find a resolution to their differences through forgiveness. Peter asked how often he should forgive another person suggesting that seven times should be enough. Jesus poured water on that idea by saying “seventy times seven” - as many as were needed! Forgiveness must be genuine (Matthew 18:35), and if we do not forgive another, our Father in heaven will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).
How many Christians are there walking around with their grudges in their hearts and hurts on their sleeves and still believing that God will give them a pass on judgment day and welcome them into the Celestial City? But then this is why this is all not so
surprising. Because we grow comfortable in fanning our little flames and feeling that our hurts are worse than anyone else has ever endured and we have a right to feel the way we do.
What we all need is a good dose of Jesus and His humility for He “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:1-2). And as they were nailing Him to that very cross He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). He offered Himself up so that you and I could receive forgiveness for our sins committed against Him!
If you know that you have hurt someone, seek them out and be reconciled! If someone has offended you, go and be reconciled! (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15). Too much is at stake to disregard Jesus’ plain teaching. Love begets forgiveness which begets unity and peace. Then Christians grow. Then congregations grow.