It’s not a new topic. It’s one I’ve written on before. But when I think about Christmas and how often the word “Peace” is used this time of year, it brings another word to mind.
It’s not an unfamiliar word nor is it a new concept. It’s not about a miracle verse in the Bible that will magically grant your every wish. It’s not a hard word to pronounce or to define. But the word forgiveness is wrought with difficulty.
One of my favorite verses to ‘misquote’, to make a point, is Matthew 18:22. Peter asks” how often should I forgive my brother when he sins against him, till seven time?” Jesus answers, not seven, but “seventy times seven times. Of course, Christ is picking a number representing the boundless nature of forgiveness. But I like to say, “That equals 490…only 122 more times to go!”
I’ll come back to that a little later.
I forgive you…
The problem with forgiveness is it’s often confused with condoning or disregarding a behavior. When someone has wronged you, human nature is for us to look for retribution. That’s certainly the way it was in Biblical times and even more so today. Hollywood has made a fortune on movies such as the Die Hard series, anything with Liam Nelson or Clint Eastwood (who happens to be my favorite.) The list goes on…but the common theme is revenge. Those three little words are so very hard to say, especially when the other person hasn’t asked for forgiveness. But for us to follow Christ’s words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, we must put those words into action in our heads, so that our hearts with follow.
Please forgive me…
I’m not sure which is harder, to forgive or to ask for forgiveness. It’s a humbling experience to lay your faults before another as ask to be pardoned. It is for me anyway. Even when I know I am wrong; my defensive walls go up and it makes it hard to admit my mistake. To ask for forgiveness is to show our vulnerable side and in today’s society, that’s seen as a sign of weakness. I found a quote recently that said, “It takes a lot of courage to forgive someone; it’s takes even more courage to ask for forgiveness.”
I forgive myself…
Ah…the real toughie. Forgiving yourself. It’s a tricky one, for several reasons. First, you may not see the need for forgiveness. Second, you may not feel you deserve it. It’s a slippery slope, to see our own worth…our own value. The world can tell us if we ask it. If we look through our own eyes, it might be easy to miss. But God doesn’t. He doesn’t see us as dollar signs, as credits or debits in little columns on a ledger. To say to ourselves that we don’t matter is to say that God doesn’t. He created us, formed us in his image and loved us enough to sacrifice his only son that we might be with him forever. We matter…we are valued…we are loved.
Back to the number 490. The Hebrew language is alphanumeric, meaning every word has a numeric value. Words that share the same numeric value are often connected in some way and these connections frequently communicate deeper spiritual insights. 490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word “tamim” which means to complete, perfect or finish. A person who can’t forgive will always live an imperfect or incomplete life that lacks true understanding of the finished gracious work of the cross. 490 is also the numerical value of the Hebrew phrase “Let your heart be perfect” (I Kings 8:61) [i]
If you want peace in your life, try asking these questions.
Who do I need to forgive?
Who do I need to ask for forgiveness?
What do I need to forgive in myself?
And more food for thought? The word nativity and Bethlehem both individually add up to 490. This makes perfect sense…since Jesus was born that we might also be forgiven. [ii]
Let us forgive each other – only then will we live in peace…