Four-hundred and ninety Times
In Jesus’ ancient Jewish religious culture, the idea of forgiving one another was a revolutionary idea. The culture’s understanding and their laws centered around an eye for an eye. Jesus teaching his followers that when someone slaps your face you are to offer them the other side to smack was absurd. Even today, this position of offering someone another side of your face to misuse, borders on ridiculous. I confess I have not engaged in this practice. Jesus dares to take forgiveness a bit beyond when he is asked if forgiving a sibling seven times was enough. His scandalous answer is no, forgive them 490 times he says. What? Appalling! Four-hundred and ninety times I am to forgive a hurtful, heart-breaking, revengeful person? Oh my. Once again, Jesus invites us to a place of unknowingness.
Forgiveness is a tricky topic. Philip Yancey in his healing book, What’s so Amazing about Grace? continues to shape my understanding of forgiveness.
I have come to know that many of those 490 acts of
forgiveness are for me to extend to myself.
Forgiving myself involves an act of kindness as I look back at a hurtful
situation. Whatever I see, feel, think
as I consider Kim at that time, might I allow her some space for being
human? Can I own her actions, lack of
actions, or reactions with kindness, understanding, and even a bit of mercy? Yes, I did it. Right, wrong, or indifferent. And from this place of tenderness, can I
forgive her? Once we forgive ourselves,
then we might, just might, be able to move towards forgiving another person. Slowly, forgiveness invites us to release the right
to have the story told our way.
 Philip Yancy, What’s so Amazing about Grace? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers, 1997), 92.