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Heavenly Arithmetic – By Dr. Glenn Cummings

Heaven has some strange methods and formulas for doing math.  For example, God says the way to get more is to give away what you have – that doesn’t add up.  He says that the way to win is by losing; the way to live is by dying; the way to go up is to get down.  The Christian is one who is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.

In this article, I want to focus on “forgiveness” and the type math God says we are to use.  How many times can a brother or sister sin against us or hurt us before we can be free to hold anger and un-forgiveness toward them. 
 
Simon Peter was concerned about that so he asked Jesus how many times can a brother sin against us and we forgive him.  Believing that he was being very liberal in his estimates, he suggests a figure of forgiving someone seven times, which was more than twice the number of times that the rabbis of his day taught.  Jesus, using heaven’s arithmetic said, “Seventy times seven!”  Peter must have thought, “Man!  Who can keep that kind of score?”  But that was Jesus’ point – do not keep scores.  Do not count in order to get even, instead show compassion. 
 
We certainly don’t deserve the forgiveness we receive from God. Forgiveness is always a matter of grace and not merits.  In a Dennis the Menace cartoon, Dennis and his buddy are shown walking out of Mrs. Wilson’s house with both hands full of cookies.  Dennis’ friend says, “Boy, I wonder what we did to deserve so many cookies?” to which Dennis replies, “Mrs. Wilson didn’t give us cookies because we are nice. We get cookies because Mrs. Wilson is nice.!”  Friend, we are not forgiven because we are good but because God is gracious.  God’s mercy says, “though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow.”
 
Forgiveness is free, but it is not cheap.  Jesus paid the sin debt on the cross for us to be forgiven.  He promises to remove our sins as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12); to cast them into the sea and post a no fishing sign over the place! 
 
Our forgiving others is based upon God having forgiven us.  It is a choice of the will.  It requires that you absorb all the cost for the offense against you.  Forgiveness is a full pardon and an act of love.  It means I will never bring this matter up to you, others, or myself again in my dealings with you.  That is the promise God made to us about our sin when we are forgiven. 
 
How can I know if I have forgiven someone?  I will not have thoughts of revenge or returning evil for evil. I Thessalonians 5:15 says “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”
 
Let me close with an example in the life of Corrie Ten Boom.  During the Nazi occupation of Holland, a remarkable Dutch woman and her family were sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home.  Corrie Ten Boom soon came to hate the guard who mocked and sneered at their naked bodies as they were taken to the showers.  His learing face seemed forever seared into her memory.  Her sister died in the camp, but Corrie survived and vowed never to return to Germany.
 
However, the Lord engineered the circumstances so that she did return to Germany, many years later for a speaking engagement.  Her first talk was on forgiveness.  To her horror, there was the same guard sitting in the audience. He could never have recognized Corrie as one of the sick, emaciated prisoners.  His radiant expression even suggested that he had since been converted. After the talk, the smiling man extended his hand and said, “Ah, dear sister Corrie, isn’t it wonderful how God forgives?”
 
Feeling only intense hatred for the man who has so wronged her and her family, Corrie Ten Boom heard the Lord tell her to put out her hand.  “It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I put out my hand.  It was only after my simple act of obedience that I felt something almost like warm oil being poured over me.  And with it came the unmistakable message ‘Well done, Corrie, that’s how my children behave.’  And the hate in my heart was absorbed and gone!”
 
I am so thankful for God reaching out his hand of forgiveness to me and that through Him we are able to forgive others.    

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