Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.Matthew 18:21–22
Before streaming services on smart phones, before iPods and MP3 players, even before portable CD players, there were Walkmans; portable cassette players with headphones that first made your music collection truly portable and personal. The name Walkman was actually the trademark of Sony’s version of the portable cassette player and it was the most desirable. The Walkman made an appearance back into pop culture with the Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy movies as Chris Pratt’s character Star Lord listened to one throughout his exploits. Sony has even planned a 40th Anniversary Walkman for this year- it’s actually an MP3 player- but it is shaped like a traditional Walkman and has a touchscreen the size of the old cassette window with an animation of a cassette turning while your music is playing, complete with artist and track names on the cassette “label.” It looks pretty rad!
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with a scripture on forgiveness. Well, when I was in high school, I saved up what little money I had one summer to buy myself a Walkman. Well the story is that a buddy of mine wanted to borrow it for a winter ski trip; I know, you already know what’s going to happen! He ended up crashing into a tree and while he was fine, my walkman was in pieces. As hard as this news was, I forgave him. Fast forward (see what I did there?) to later that year at a volleyball tournament. I now had a new Walkman, and not the base model, but a nice one with auto reverse. If you don’t know what auto reverse is, ask your parent. When the same buddy was at the tournament and asked to borrow it, I thought, “surely nothing bad could happen here!” So I let him listen to my new Sammy Hagar cassette and while he was playing air guitar on the bleachers in the gym, he tripped, fell, and smashed my new Walkman into pieces. He was no longer my buddy!
When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive a brother, Peter thought he was being generous suggesting seven since the Jewish custom for generous forgiveness was three times. But Jesus saying seventy times seven, or 490, is not specifying a number of times greater than the Peter’s suggestion of seven. Jesus means that there is to be no limit. Our forgiveness of fellow sinners should grow out of our thankfulness of being forgiven in immeasurable ways. In other words, the forgiveness we give should be like God’s forgiveness towards us; it should be limitless in its quantity and quality. That is how a thankful person lives and forgives.
Questions to ponder
What is one thing you loaned out that was never returned or was broken by another person that made you sad or upset?
Do you find it easy or difficult to forgive others? Is it the same or different if the offense was a mistake versus on purpose? Why?
Consider how God has forgiven (and keeps forgiving) you. Knowing that you can’t earn God’s forgiveness and that you receive it solely through underserved grace, how can thankfulness change the way and frequency with which you forgive others?