I heard a song this weekend by Chris August titled “7×70” and the chorus goes like this:
7 times 70 times
I’ll do what it takes to make it right
I thought the pain was here to stay
But forgiveness made a way
7 times 70 times
There’s healing in the air tonight
I’m reaching up to pull it down
Gonna wrap it all around
I once thought that the pain was here to stay. So much anger in my life; mostly directed at my Dad. But I’m coming to realize that I’ve been angry at a lot of people and things. I’ve just been plain angry.
And the sad thing is that I have much to be merciful about because I have received unending mercy from God. That was the purpose of Jesus telling Peter not 7 times, but 70 times. Let’s look again at yesterday’s passage:
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.’” (Matthew 18:21-35)
I don’t know what caused Peter to ask this question. Perhaps his legalistic upbringing caused the question. The Jews were so encumbered with many man-made laws that it was confusing how to be righteous. Perhaps it was pride, Peter knowing that the number 7 was the number of perfection and completion.
Jesus tells us a story of man who had much to be merciful for, someone who should have been in jail to prevent him from collecting a debt, because of his own debt, and yet look at him.
Is that a mirror you’re looking into…this unforgiving servant. Is that you in the story?
Our nation is in need of great mercy. We seek it constantly and yet it escapes us. Why is that? It is because we seek it with a wrong heart. What caused this servant to be unforgiving? How could he be so unmerciful after receiving so much mercy?
It is because he knew his master was merciful and when he begged for mercy he knew he would receive it. His heart was not changed because he took his master’s grace for granted. That is the only thing that explains an unforgiving heart; that and pride. In our pride we take grace for granted because in the depths of our soul we believe we deserve it. That’s why we are unable to be gracious. Our flesh and the devil whispers in our ear that your offender deserves punishment. You have a right to be angry. You have a right to demand payment.
No you don’t…not if you’re a Christian. Slaves don’t have rights.
“But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22)
Beloved, the elements of the fruit of the spirit does not include unforgiveness. Quite the opposite; it includes long-suffering. There are some important lessons we need to learn as a nation.
You do not have a right to be angry.
You do not have a right to be offended.
You do not have a right to feel entitled.
You do not have a right to be provided for by the government.
Everything we have and everything we are is because of God. The only thing we have a right to, the only thing we deserve, the only thing we have earned is the wrath of God. It is already upon us and we are already condemned (John 3:18).
The First Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” said this referencing God withholding His judgment upon us:
“… it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up. You probably are not cognizant of this; you find that you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, like your good health, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw His hand, they would no more keep you from falling, than thin air would hold a person up that is suspended in it.”
What would happen to families if we were to give up our unforgiving spirits?
What would happen to church if they were to give up their unforgiving spirits?
What would happen to communities of they were to give up their unforgiving spirits?
What would happen to a nation if it were to give up its unforgiving spirit?
Perhaps we would cry out to God like the psalmist:
“Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, LORD, and grant us Your salvation.” (Psalm 85:4-7)
Would to God that I would forgive seven times seventy times.
Oh that you would too.
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers