I was reading Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis, and he wrote in it, “There is no use in talking as if forgiveness were easy. We all know the old joke, ‘You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.’ In the same way I could say of a certain man, ‘Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.’ For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again.
“We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offense and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offenses but for one offense.”
How many of you know this to be true? There are moments that are going to provoke old pain. You’re going to hear something, someone's going to mention something, and it's going to bring up a memory.
At those moments, I've got to go 490 on the issue, saying, “I forgive that. I forgive that. I forgive that.” Why do I forgive it? Because God has forgiven me. That's my motivation. I can forgive 490 times because I've been forgiven of so much. I have the ability to cover a wound because God says I can. Now sometimes I can forgive an issue, but I still need to confront it.
How many of you know this verse "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20, ESV)?
How many of you know that Jesus wasn't giving us a verse for bad church attendance? I've heard that verse used more at poorly attended prayer meetings and church services than anywhere else, but it wasn't Jesus saying, “Hey, when you have a prayer meeting and there's only 10 people there, just say these magic words.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Context means everything. You know how that passage starts? “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Then Jesus walks through the forgiveness grid on how to deal with sin.
He was essentially saying, “I see reconciliation as so important and powerful that I will show up to see brothers and sisters come back to me and healthy community.” If you have a heart to reconcile a broken or damaged relationship, to forgive 490 times if necessary, Jesus says, “My presence will be there.”
After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.