Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seventy Times Seven: Matthew 18


I was at good couple friend's Christmas party on the night of the 21st and although the party was an overall blast the subject of forgiveness, as in some now past friends not forgiving after apologies were made, and therefore not accepting the apology within forgiveness and continuing in the friendship, was discussed.

Not my friends, by the way...

Today after thinking about the discussion, Matthew 18 seems to be relevant:

Matthew 18: 21-35 New American Standard Version

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven [a]may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him [b]ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he [c]did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.

English Standard Version 21

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[a] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[b] 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

Matthew scholar R.T. France explains that the parable with the concept of seventy times seven demonstrates why forgiveness must be unlimited because the original debt is also unlimited. France (2001: 277). The idea being that the sinner can never pay his/her own debt to God. H.L. Ellison writes that Peter realized from the story that if Peter himself was to reconciled to God then by the same reasoning he had to be reconciled to his fellow disciples. Ellison (1986: 1140). Ellison suggests that some Hebrew commentaries documented that a person could be forgiven three times. Ellison (1986: 1140). But from the words of Jesus in Matthew 'seventy times seven' (four hundred and ninety) is not the plain literal intention as in the amount of times one should be forgiven.

As France alluded to, humanity being finite and sinful cannot atone for/cover sin against an infinite perfectly moral and holy God, therefore the debt is unlimited. God would therefore need to forgive humanity through the atoning work of Christ in an unlimited way, and that is what Christ meant when he stated seventy times seven for human to human forgiveness.

The Greek New Testament

Verses 21-22

ebdomhkontakiV- seventy times

Biblically, if a person repents of a sin, truly repents, one is obligated to provide forgiveness. I do realize this can be be extremely difficult if the offense is very difficult, but forgiveness can be a process, but a Christian should at least be willing to forgive with a forgiving mind-set.

If one does not repent of a sin against another, I reason the offended Christian should still be willing to forgive that person (or other entity) for at least a couple of key philosophical, theological reasons. I also provide a third practical theological reason.

Although technically, one may gather that sins should only be forgiven if they are repented of, on the other hand, God forgives all sins in Christ even the ones that his people do not necessarily consciously repent of. Therefore, a Christian should have a willingness to forgive all sins, and even the sins that are not technically repented of by a person.

However, sins that are not repented of may mean that there cannot be fellowship, because of personal fracture. The extreme cases of violent crime come to mind. A Christian may attempt to forgive a violent criminal that has repented or not, but for near certain in the case of non-repentance it is just common sense that no fellowship would be sought, desired or needed.

Another reason to forgive someone is to avoid having anger and potential sin build-up inside against the offender.

The third practical reason is to maintain friendships (family relationships as well)...

If one as a sinner is in disputes with friends and as a sinner will not be forgiven seventy times seven, and forgive, seventy times seven, one will soon find a life pattern of broken relationships and few friends.

This is would be fixable if Matthew 18 would be practically obeyed.

ELLISON, H.L. (1986) ‘Matthew’, in F.F. Bruce (ed.), The International Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

FRANCE, R.T. (1985) Matthew, Grand Rapids, IVP, Eerdmans.

MARSHALL, ALFRED (1975)(1996) The Interlinear KJV-NIV, Grand Rapids, Zondervan.


Alieux (Daij) said...

Thank you for posting this. I'm currently not speaking to someone who did me wrong, and it's kind of stressful because he speaks to me every single day and I act as if he doesn't exist. He has not asked for my forgiveness. That's all I want - for him to say I'm sorry, then I would forgive him. But he hasn't. I guess I need to forgive him anyway, even if he hasn't asked? On a daily basis, before I go to sleep I always ask God for forgiveness if I thought, did, or said anything that wasn't pleasing to Him.

Dr. Russell Norman Murray said...

Along the lines of Matthew 18, you might approach him with the grievance and perhaps you will gain a brother as the Chapter talks about, or more precisely in your case, a better relationship. If he becomes angry and even explodes you would have the option of treating as a Gentile (non-friend), but at least you forgave him.

Blessings, Alieux and thanks

Merry Christmas

Valentina said...

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Merry Christmas :)

Dr. Russell Norman Murray said...

Valentina, I like your work as well. You have original writing and thoughtful images.

Merry Christmas to you and family in Spain.

Looney said...

There are still many puzzling aspects to all this. Such as the one who wronged me is often more offended than me, so forgiving them often doesn't calm things down a whole lot. Then there is the question of whether or not I need to forgive if I choose not to be offended. Then there is the stuff I can't let go of even though I quite consciously forgive 70X7 times. Good post.

Dr. Russell Norman Murray said...

It is complex on many levels. One of my complaints with much evangelical theology is that although the Gospel is simple, is the problem of evil/theodicy and related theology, as this could be related, is often oversimplified and non-philosophical to the point of being unhelpful and even misleading.

Happy New Year, sir. Cheers.

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