How Many Times Are You Supposed to Forgive Someone? [blog/reflection]

How Many Times Are You Supposed to Forgive Someone? [blog/reflection]

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You’ve been done wrong by someone not once but multiple times. Over and over someone or a group had been committing a wrong doing against you. So how many times are you supposed to forgive them?

If we look to The Bible for an actual number we will find that Jesus tells Peter that we are to forgive someone 77 times or 7 times 70 depending on the version you are looking at (Matt 18:21-22). At first glance it seems as if there is a cap on the number of times we should forgive. It appears to be between 70 and 490. But let’s place these numbers into context. In the first century, when this text was written, a number like 490 or even 70 would have seemed astronomical. It actually would have been seen more like infinity. Often times we do not reflect on the time in which these stories took place.

Here are some things to take into context:

  • The literacy rate was around 3% – 7%
  • The world was still seen as flat
  • The life expectancy in the first century was less than 40 (some historians say 29)
  • If someone was having a seizure and foaming at the mouth people would have believed that the person was possessed by demons

Based on this context I can only imagine Peter’s face when Jesus told him there were no limits on forgiveness. Although shocking, we also must look at forgiveness in the same context of our relationship with God. For believers, we pray to God for forgiveness and expect God to forgive us no matter what we do. Some of us won’t even name our wrong doings while we pray and we have been taught that God will wipe the sleight clean. In fact the only unforgiven sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29). Our expectation (at times) is God will forgive us for anything if we just ask.  Ultimately if God is going to wipe the sleight clean for us, God expects us to do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters.  Sure this is a tough task but according to Jesus it is required of us.

Although we are required to constantly forgive others, there can and should be consequences for wrong doings. For instance in the case of domestic violence the abuser at some point should be forgiven for his/her deeds but they must also pay the price for their actions. In this case the penalty can be jail and/or an ending of the relationship with the one they have abused. When we move towards forgiveness and reconciliation though, we must understand that it is ok if the dynamics of the relationship change. Being abused, taken advantage of or lied to over and over by the same person or groups of people is not a must. We can place ourselves in positions where we are not taken advantage of. Of course there is no formula for this, distance or positioning will have to occur on a case by case scenario.

Is there anyone you cannot forgive because they have done you wrong too many times? How are you handling your relationship with them? Comment Below!