If only I had Sharp Shark Teeth. Real Living, Part 7

Two ten-year-olds were pouting in the corner of their classroom. It was clear that they were quite upset. The teacher approached and asked what the matter was. The smallest of the two turned around, her lips quivering. It was not yet clear whether this was from anger or from hurt:

"She…she hurt me bad!" She snapped. Then she proceeded to share her side of the story with much passion.

When the other girl was given the opportunity to reply, all she said was "I am so sorry! Can you please forgive me?"

"No way! You hurt me too bad!" The hurt girl replied.

The teacher was surprised at both responses. Never before had he heard someone, when accused, not try to defend herself. And since there had been such a beautiful apology, why hadn't the other girl accepted it?

"Why not?" He asked.

The reply of the smaller girl was curt and to the point: "I already forgave her once, and look where it brought me!"

The teacher reflected on her answer and perceived that if that girl had been blessed with sharp shark teeth, she would probably take a huge bite out of her offending friend! He simply replied with a question:

"Have you ever hurt your mom or dad through your actions?"

The girl turned red and answered with hesitation: "Yes..."

"Have they ever not forgiven you?"

"Not really."

"Isn't it worth it to give your best friend another chance by forgiving her?"

"I suppose."

They did make up, and they are still best friends. Had she not forgiven, however, this simple problem could potentially have undermined everything; and all because of unforgiveness!

The apostle Peter also had a problem with the notion of forgiveness. This is why he asked Jesus, in Matt 18:21: "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

It sounded good to say "up to seven times" (The younger student thought forgiving once was more than enough!), however the word "up" was and still is a dangerous word!

"Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (Matt 18:22 NIV)

Cool! Although 490 (70 times 7) is a lot, it seems that Jesus, too, puts a limit on forgiveness. All we need to do is keep tabs, and once someone hurts us the 491st time, we don't need to forgive him or her any longer. Right?

Not really. Peter knew immediately what Jesus was referring to. The well-known story has its roots in Genesis: "Lamech said to his wives, 'Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech (he seems to be the first man to promote polygamy. No wonder he had huge problems!), hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.'" (Gen 4:23-24 NIV)

Jesus is the anti-thesis to sin. Where vengeance was once the norm, grace now abounds. Those who are dominated by sin will live by vengeance and unforgiveness more than 490 times (Notice how vengeance multiplies? Cain was seven times and look where vengeance takes Lamech!), but those living by faith (through Jesus) will live by grace and forgiveness more than 490 times.

There is peace and real living among those who can forgive through Christ. But to those who simply cannot forgive, they are living pure hell!

"Can you please forgive me?"

"Let me see. Where did I leave my tab book?"

Rob Chaffart

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