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The 490 rulePosted Thursday, August 25, 2011, at 6:28 PM
In the gospel of Matthew, the Apostle Peter asks Jesus how often a brother could sin against him and Peter still be obliged to forgive him. He even asks "till seven times? ..." I believe Peter was thinking that to forgive someone seven times was pretty generous. He probably thought he would be commended for his mercy and generosity.
As was the case in so many instances, Jesus gave Peter an answer he wasn't expecting. He said, basically, that seven times wasn't near enough. He expects believers to forgive "70 times seven" ... or 490 times. Can you imagine forgiving someone 490 times for the same offense? I dare say that some of us have a hard enough time letting go of an offense and forgiving someone once. But let me throw another wrinkle into the conversation.
Jesus wasn't just giving Peter a number. He was saying that believers must be willing to forgive completely ... immediately, automatically, and as many times and as often as necessary.
To call ourselves believers and continue to hold hurts and offenses against others stands directly opposed to scripture. I realize there are many believers who have deeply rooted bitterness in their hearts from something someone did to them in the past -- maybe even long, long ago. But we must realize that bitterness can be a very potent spiritual poison. Our own unforgiveness can actually destroy us emotionally as well as spiritually. And we risk the judgment of God to boot. After all, He commands us to walk in love and to forgive others.
I heard someone say that there are three daily necessities for every Christian: (1) time spent in the Word of God, (2) God's forgiveness, (3) and God's protection. That preacher went on to say that's why we are to pray those parts of the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6:11-13) daily, "Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
There's another story in the New Testament about a servant who was forgiven a large debt. That servant went out and found another servant who owed him much less than he had been forgiven, and he demanded payment right away.
The story goes on to tell that when the original master found out what the other man had done after being forgiven his debt, the master found him and punished him severely because of his refusal to forgive.
The point of the story is simple: We need to forgive others so we can receive forgiveness from our heavenly father. That forgiveness is something I need on a daily basis.
I don't know about you, but I need God's forgiveness every day of my life.
When we hold on to hurts and refuse to forgive, we risk preventing God from releasing His forgiveness toward us. We simply must forgive.
Forgiveness is an act of our will ... a part of our Kingdom mindset. It means being willing to set aside our own pride and having an attitude of walking in love.
It's what I call the 490 Rule.
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Bob Stewart is pastor of Union Baptist Church. His long-running column ranges in topic from matters of faith to observations about life in Saline County, politics and the sights to see in travels throughout America.