By Jo Witt
Copyright 2019

Although people often pick and choose scriptures they believe support their position/beliefs and when taken out of context, may mean different things to some than to others; and although my ideas at times may seem unconventional; I’m going to step out on a limb and purport that by Jesus’ response regarding forgiveness where he stated to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22, Living Bible), that Jesus was indicating a finite number of times to forgive. Jesus could have said to always forgive, but instead he cited a number. Although “seventy times seven” is intended as a figurative number, indicative of forgiving a lot, it is also a finite number, indicating there is a limit. I’ve often contemplated that regarding my relationships with others. How many times should we allow someone to wrong us? How tolerant should we be of others mistreating us? Even in marriage, doesn’t it reach a point where one time is too many, and it’s time to walk away? Every time we’re wronged, doesn’t our love, care, and concern for that person lessen? I’m not talking about coming to hate anyone, I’m not talking about retaliating against anyone, I’m talking about knowing when enough is enough and it being time to walk away, and say “No more!”

While I realize there are other scriptures that could lead one to see this point differently—Jesus also said, “but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you” (Matthew 6:15, Living Bible). So, how do we reconcile the two? On the one hand, Jesus cites a finite number as how many times we should forgive someone, but on the other hand he says if we don’t forgive others, then we won’t be forgiven.

To me the reconciliation comes in viewing the finite number as a guide as to how tolerant we should be of how others treat us. Too many people stay in relationships that are abusive, dysfunctional, demeaning, physically and mentally unhealthy, hampering. Too many people wade in depression, weighted down and disabled. I heard a sermon several years ago with the basic message of learning when it’s time to clean some people out of your life. My own quote is “Status quo is a very comfortable boredom.” How many times are we trapped by inaction because of status quo being more comfortable and less stressful?

Rather than the adage “forgive and forget,” I propose replacing it with “forgive and learn.” Be mindful of how people are treating you. Is there a pattern of behavior? Forgive until you can’t. Learn when it’s time to walk away.

May we have the wisdom in our relationships to recognize when “seventy times seven” has been reached and to have the strength and the courage to know when to walk away.

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