490 Is NOT a Magic Number

If you think 490 is some kind of magic number because Jesus told Peter that we should forgive someone 490 times if that person keeps offending us over and again, you may well be missing the point. Why did Jesus tell Peter that we should forgive someone 70 times 7? Some would say it is because 7 is considered the number of perfection and completion.

Is it time to forgive again?

Others might say Jesus picked the number 490 because it is such an unattainable number that He makes the point we simply need to keep forgiving over and over. Still others might say the number is so high because we will undeniably lose count if we try to keep track of how many times we might need to forgive someone.

But what if 490 isn’t a magic number at all? What if it really doesn’t have any overall significance? What if it might be any number at all? Isn’t the point that God COMMANDS us to forgive when we are wronged? And isn’t the point that we need to keep forgiving over and over no matter how many times we are wronged? If you are struggling with someone because that same person keeps hurting you, and you feel like you’ve just about had enough of needing to forgive that person, think about this.

What if Jesus Christ, as He hung on the cross, had chosen to climb down off the cross because He felt He had died for enough of our sins and felt He had reached the magic number of paying the penalty for our sins? And what if instead of saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34 KJV),” He had said, “Father, don’t forgive them because I’m maxed out on loving and forgiving humanity.” Jesus didn’t say this, did He? Nor did He tell us to keep count of how many times we forgive someone so that we have permission to quit forgiving that person once we’ve hit the magic number.

This is what He is saying. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. As many times as you need to forgive. Forgive. And forgive again. And in case you feel like you can’t muster up another single ounce of love and compassion, of mercy and grace, of strength to forgive, realize this. You don’t have to love and forgive in your own human strength.

After all, how far does human love and forgiveness ever go? Not too far. So if it’s time to forgive someone again, do it. But this time around, love with the love of God and forgive in the strength He gives you. And may the person who has offended you see and experience the love of God in your decision to forgive. Take up your cross – and forgive. And in case you think God is asking too much of you when He tells you to forgive the same person again, turn your focus away from the person who has hurt you again and take a look at the cross. Remember what Jesus did for you. You may need to forgive that same person for the 491st time, or the 492nd, but how can what God is telling you to do even compare with what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross?

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22 KJV

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