Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Numbers are one of the significant parts of our lives. I must admit I’m the sort of person who prefers letters to numbers, or English to mathematics. Someone once quipped, “‘Mathematics’ is an anagram of ‘me asthmatic’.” That could well describe how I feel when calculating! However, I am interested in mathematical facts. For instance, if you multiply 111,111,111 by 111,111,111 this becomes equal to 12,345,678,987,654,321. You get the pattern 1 to 9 and back to 1 again. Also, the number 2,520 can be divided precisely by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
In Matthew 18 I found the mathematics of forgiveness:
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.” Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV)
Let’s do the maths: 7×70=490. The rabbis taught that forgiving up to three times was sufficient, and thus Peter considered he was being more than generous by describing forgiveness as up to seven times. But Jesus insisted that there must be no limits to forgiveness. Jesus was using the numbers to say that you should not put limits on your forgiveness because God has not put limits on forgiveness and mercy toward you.
Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant follows directly after His “seventy times seven” speech, driving home the point that if we are forgiven the enormous debt of sin against a holy God, how much more should we be eager to forgive those who sin against us, who are just as sinful as we are? The master say in verse 33:
“I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Matthew 18:32-33 (NLT)
The truth is that we punish ourselves, we cut ourselves off from the free flows of God’s grace, when we don’t forgive. Nursing even a molehill of a grudge can grow into a smouldering volcano of bitterness. As someone said, “Not forgiving someone is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
In Colossians 3 Paul has been telling us how to dress for success.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility… Colossians 3:12 (MSG)
Then he mentions the fabric of forgiveness:
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
The verb for “forgive” is charizomai, meaning ‘to show kindness or favour’. Derived from charis (grace), charizonmai means ‘to forgive freely, graciously, not grudgingly, granting to another as a favour’.
May we apply the mathematics of forgiveness to our lives.