I have to admit that I was never very good at math. That’s why I stuck with writing even though I did make it through algebra in high school by the skin of my teeth. But Jesus asks us all to do a little math when Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answers, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” If I am doing my math right, Jesus is asking us to forgive a person 490 times when they sin against us.
But here is where I don’t think Jesus wants us to get our math exactly right, forgiving someone 490 times on the nose and then refusing to forgive once that magic number is reached. No, the meaning here, scholars believe, is that Jesus is intending to express an infinite number. Seven was seen as a perfect number (that is why Peter suggests it), so multiplying a perfect number by a multiple of a perfect number meant that the number of times we should forgive should be perfection upon perfection, a never-ending amount.
We can be a very unforgiving people at times. “I will never forgive him!” we hear people say. The forgiveness factor offered by much of humanity is often a zero. And that is the kind of math our human nature tends toward. But we are formed in the nature of God, and therefore it is in our spiritual DNA to forgive and forgive and forgive. There is no number that calculates the end of our forgiveness. The number of times we say “I forgive you” in the kingdom of God is always countless.