Jesus was once asked how many times someone should be forgiven. He said 77 times (or 70 x 7 times depending on how you read the Ancient Greek).
Is Jesus giving us a blueprint manual on forgiveness like those IKEA furniture manuals - do this first, do this next? No.
The truth is, Jesus is inviting us into living forgiveness. Jesus is inviting all of us to consider what forgiveness looks like as a community, or in one of his favorite ways of talking about it - a kindom of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not so much about a transaction the hurt one bestows upon the one who does the hurt - it’s about health, restoration, release, and in the end transformation, together.
When Jesus is talking about 77 or 77x7 someone must forgive, those that had ears to hear would’ve remembered the story of Cain and Abel, where a brother killed his own, looking for a scapegoat for his own problems.
Jesus is saying it’s time to give up on relying on scapegoats. It’s time for our own release and transformation.
Maybe in forgiveness a relationship is restored and reconciled. Maybe for authentic forgiveness to take place, we may need to release someone or some thing altogether.
In the end, forgiveness is about health, flourishing and our own transformation through the transgressions and even trauma, so that we might be fully alive and able to love others and be in community.
Anne Lamott puts it this way in her powerful book Almost Everything: Notes on Hope:
“Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. Even (or especially) people who seem to have it more or less together are more like the rest of us than you would believe. I try not to compare my insides to their outsides, because this makes me much worse than I already am, and if I get to know them, they turn out to have plenty of irritability and shadow of their own. Besides, those few people who aren’t a mess are probably good for about twenty minutes of dinner conversation.
This is good news, that almost everyone is petty, narcissistic, secretly insecure, and in it for themselves, because a few of the funny ones may actually long to be friends with you and me. They can be real with us, the greatest relief.
As we develop love, appreciation, and forgiveness for others over time, we may accidentally develop those things toward ourselves, too.”
(For more, check out this great article on Brainpickings.)
How might we live more fully and love more fully ourselves, others and the world around us?
It’s about living forgiveness, together.