It is far easier for us to point out fault in others than it is to recognize it in ourselves. One of the most pointed teachings of Jesus centers on forgiving others again and again and again.
The Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ ‘I tell you, not as many as seven,’ Jesus said to him, ‘but seventy times seven.’
Matthew 18.21-22 (HCSB)
According to the rabbinic teaching of the day, believers were required to forgive a person three times, so in all likelihood Peter thought he was being more than generous in asking if seven times was enough. As usual, Jesus’ response blows us away–seventy times seven. “Forgive your brother as many times as he is truly repentant,” Jesus might as well have said.
This kind of love is hard. In our own strength, this kind of love is impossible.
Honestly, we don’t like the idea of forgiving someone this many times. “Enough is enough!” we’re tempted to cry out. Even though God continues to forgive our sins again and again and again, there is a part of us that hates the idea of extending this same kind of grace to others. And yet, the attitude Jesus exemplifies and demands of us is precisely the attitude that realizes that ceasing from sin–especially a long-standing one–involves much more than simply willing ourselves to stop.
There is an archaic English word used throughout the King James Version that describes God’s attitude toward our never-ending cycle of sin and repentance. The word is “long-suffering.” According to Merriam-Webster, long-suffering means “patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship.” That pretty well sums up God’s attitude of grace in the face of our sin.
Here is my 70×7 prayer:
May we be as long-suffering with the sins of others
as God is long-suffering with our own.