Seventy Times Seven

I was an English major in college, which effectively means that I know how to read a long boring book and write pages and pages on symbolic interpretation that may or may not be valid. What a crucial skill.

Years away from my English degree, I have learned to simply enjoy the books I am reading. Provincial Afternoon by Steve Henderson

But despite my strength being in words, not numbers, I can still perform basic mathematical functions — like figuring out that 70 x 7 is 490 — an amount that may seem familiar to you from the Biblical account of the apostle Peter — one of those impulsive sorts who blurts out whatever is on the surface of his mind — asking Christ how many times he needed to forgive his brother.

“Seventy times seven,” Christ answers, or, in other versions, “Seventy-seven,” but why quibble? If you’re like me, you haven’t reached either number.

So often, when we talk about forgiveness, we focus on the big stuff — demonic despots who destroy people’s lives so that they can enrich their own — but it’s amazing how small things grow to epic proportions in our minds. On a personal level, there are some people mighty close to my heart who have made questionable decisions that other people, who aren’t as close to their hearts as I am, just have trouble getting over.

“I can’t support this person in that decision. They haven’t suffered properly and repented enough.”

God puts family into our lives so that we can practice forgiveness. Seaside Story by Steve Henderson, original sold; open edition art print at Great Big Canvas

If they would simply say this thought aloud, I would give them bonus points for honesty, albeit a misguided perception of what our part is to play in the lives of others.

God forgives sins; He does a remarkably good job of it.

We do not.

And then we have children, and we learn — seriously learn — what forgiveness means (and don’t worry, progeny; you haven’t done anything majorly wrong lately, so I’m not aiming at you.) Children are just a primary means of learning the concept of unconditional love, and unconditional love is just that — it doesn’t set up parameters.

Forgiveness — something people who insanely love one another do over and over again — is a fine line between not losing the relationship and not getting hurt again, and the best person to do the forgiving is the person who has been hurt.

It is remarkably easy — and I have done this — to sit in the seat of the audience, watching what we think is the action but misinterpreting what we see — quite similar, actually, to what literature students do to books.

Yes, other people’s children do dumb things.

Gracious — these misguided and improperly raised people may have a maleficent influence upon our own children.

So best, indeed, to keep them away. They’re not positive role models. Reject the parents as well, since the whole thing is pretty much their fault.

Forgiveness is a dance that takes many steps, but the end result is beautiful. Evening Waltz, original painting available at Steve Henderson Fine Art.

This attitude does not count toward Seventy time Seven. It’s not even a fraction of the number one, and yet it is the standard reaction we all reach when we see someone who has stumbled and fallen, onto their face, try to get up again. Sometimes they even hold out their hand and ask us to give them some leverage.

But we hesitate, thinking — “If I help them, will I seem to be encouraging them in their wrong? Will I just make them go more wrong?”

With or without us, the person will get up again, and he or she may trip right  back onto his face, or not. But he’ll always remember that, when he held out his hand, we walked away, something Christ never does.

Seventy times seven? How about if we just start with, “One”?

The fine art in my articles is by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art. Steve’s fine art can be found as original oil paintingssigned limited edition prints, and inspirational posters at the Steve Henderson Fine Art Website, and as open edition prints at Great Big Canvas and Light in the Box.