Q. In Matthew 18:22 when Jesus said to forgive 70 X 7 times do you think he might have had a reason for using this particular number?
A. Peter had asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matt. 18:21)
I think Peter thought he was being quite generous in suggesting that he forgive someone one seven times. When the Lord responded, “Not seven times but seventy times seven times”, He was saying in effect, “Peter you’re not even close.”
Personally, I don’t believe there’s any special significance to the number, and maybe it wasn’t even intend to be specific. I think the Lord could have been saying, “So many times you’ll lose count.” No matter how often we think a brother or sister has sinned against us, we’re called upon to forgive him or her.
Remember, the Lord has forgiven all the sins of our life (Colossians 2:13-14). I can’t speak for you, but for me it has been many more than 70 X 7 and the number is still growing. Out of gratitude for all that He’s done for us, I believe He expects us to be generous in forgiving each other as well (Matt. 18:32-33).
There’s a real benefit for heeding His advice. I don’t think we can ever be completely free of the anger, hurt, and resentment we feel until we’ve sincerely forgiven the the one who caused it. And it has been shown that these feelings can cause emotional and even physical pain that could otherwise last a lifetime.
This is why Paul said, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephes. 4:26-27). Failing to forgive is not worth the price we pay.