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Gospel Breakdown: Forgiving 77 Times


Father Dave and Team Busted Halo discuss Matthew 18:22 in which Jesus tells us to forgive 77 times.

Father Dave explains the meaning behind the number noted in this passage, “Matthew is sort of relaying this to the audience of his peers. They would hear these numbers in a very powerful and symbolic way. Seven was a number of perfection, indicating infinity. When Peter asks Jesus about forgiving as many as seven times, that would be almost unthinkable, almost unachievable … Jesus answers and says, ‘I say to you not seven times, but 77 times.’ …  It is basically infinity times infinity. That is how God acts towards us.”

“God has not given us extra time to work off our sins. He has completely forgiven the debt that we could never, ever pay off. We are called to act in that same way. Some people have been hurt very severely and I don’t want to diminish that. It feels emotionally impossible sometimes for people to forgive, or they worry about justifying the wrong that’s been done to them. But Jesus is telling this story to make us see the big picture. He could have said, ‘Well, here’s the reason why I don’t forgive you,’ but he didn’t.”

RELATED: Why Is It So Hard to Forgive?

Christina shares her own experience with forgiveness recently, “It’s not easy. Jesus saying 77 times, it’s hard. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to forgive even one time. I actually had a conversation last night with my friends about this.” Christina shares that these friends had recognized that they hurt her and wanted their friendship to go back to the way things used to be. “They apologized to me. I know I’m called to forgive, but it’s actually really hard, and there was a part of me that did not want to forgive. There was this moment where my friends explained that they wanted to fight for our friendship and have things go back to normal. I said, ‘I don’t think I could go back to the way that things used to be, but can forgive you and try to work towards healing.’”

Father Dave points out that forgiveness does not mean that we forget the hurt that occurred. We can forgive without any expectations of things going back to the way they once were. 

RELATED: Forgiveness Is Not the Same as Letting Go

“The moment that you decide to forgive someone is a process. You don’t just say, ‘Okay, I forgive this person’ and then stop feeling hurt. I think it’s a constant renewal of forgiveness. Having that moment with my friends allowed me to acknowledge what I was pushing down for a really long time. I finally acknowledged that I was hurt. I was finally able to be honest with myself and begin a healing process. That is what the gift of forgiveness is to the people that we’re forgiving, but also to ourselves — it allows us to begin a healing process. And I think that’s why God calls us to it because he doesn’t want us to live miserable lives or to be sad, or to live into our wounds. He wants us to live into his mercy and his healing power. This Gospel is really difficult to do, but it’s extremely necessary for our own well-being in relationships.”

Originally published July 27, 2021