As a parent, I often get tired of telling my children the same thing again and again.
“Johnny, please put your shoes on the rack.”
“Debbie, you need to brush your teeth before you get to bed.”
“Mark, stop screaming. I’ll help you.”
Because folly is wrapped up in the heart of a child (Prov. 22:15), it shouldn’t surprise us that our children will struggle with the same sins again and again.
“Johnny, if you complain one more time…”
“Debbie, stop hitting your brother. This is the billionth time today I’ve had to tell you this!”
“Mark, stop screaming. I’ll help you again.”
If you’re like me, you get tired of these daily battles. Every day you wake up and you feel like you are facing the same sins over, and over, and over again. What’s a parent to do?
I wish I could forgive my kids once for their sins, and then never, ever have them appear again. But that is not realistic, is it? The Bible asks me to repeatedly forgive my kids. Jesus endures with me (and my abundance of sin and folly), so why would Jesus expect any less of me as a parent?
Recall Peter’s conversation with Jesus in Matthew 18.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Within Judaism, forgiving someone three times was sufficient to show that you had a forgiving spirit (Job 33:29; Amos 1:3; 2:6). When Peter offers to forgive his brother seven times, he considers this to be a big deal. In the Bible, the number seven is often associated with completion (Genesis 1) or perfection (Revelation 1:4).
Jesus says, “You think that seven times is a big deal… well, Christian forgiveness asks much more of you… how about seventy-seven times?”
Not surprising… Jesus ups the ante.
What does Jesus mean by “seventy-seven times?” Is he saying that after seventy-seven times you can stop forgiving? On the seventy-eighth time I can stop?
Not at all. Seventy-seven is meant to be an infinitely large number; much larger than Peter could have ever imagined. Essentially Jesus is saying, “If you love me, then you can’t stop forgiving….”
Can’t stop? Seriously? Humanly speaking, who can really do this?
Brace yourself. Ready? Here’s my answer: No one. No one can do this on his or her own.
By their own strength, parents could never endure with their children. Our patience would wear thin way too often. Our encouragement would be too infrequent. Our frustrations are too common and our forgiveness (comparatively speaking) is too rare. On my own, I don’t have the will-power to parent my children well every day, let alone to forgive them after every offense.
That’s why it is so appropriate that this all comes from Jesus’ mouth. To forgive someone this often is not humanly possible. It requires a supernatural act from God in human hearts. It takes the Holy Spirit dwelling in sinful parents for this to happen consistently in parenting. If you are frustrated to no end, and struggling to forgive your kids, ask God to help you (James 1:5-8). That’s one reason God sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins. You can’t do this on your own, so don’t try. Instead, trust in Jesus.
Take the time to reflect on how much Jesus has forgiven you (infinitely more than your kid’s offense) and how many times He’s patiently forgiven you for the sin you’ve committed, once again. Reflecting on this reality (as Jesus does in Matthew 18:23-35) is one way God enables us to be patient and loving when it is so difficult. So look to Jesus… He will patiently help you get through.
Join the Conversation
What will it look like for you to tap into Christ’s resources to forgive… seventy-seven times?