There is a well-known saying, I believe originally made by St Augustine, that ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die’
In Jesus’ time on earth, the Jewish people believed in forgiving others for the errors of their ways, but how this was conducted was different from what Jesus was now teaching.
He had been talking to his disciples (who like Jesus were all Jewish) about sin, resentment and forgiveness – and how they should always forgive the sins of others.
Then Matthew, probably thinking of the Jewish law, asked if seven times would be the right number of times to forgive someone of their sin now. He probably thought he was being generous with this view.
How Jesus answered was completely radical and must have shocked his Jewish disciples. No not seven times Jesus said, but seventy times seven, meaning four hundred and ninety – or in other words, always and forever.
The number seven is considered Holy in the Jewish faith. It means wholeness, perfection and completeness, and Jesus was alluding to how we can achieve this.
Both the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18) and the New Testament (Mark 12:30-31) clearly state we should love our neighbour as ourselves. Meaning we should not bear a grudge.
As resentment gnaws away in the embittered life of the hater; forgiving our neighbours is a way of loving others, and learning how to love ourselves better too. Because it brings sweetness rather than bitterness into our lives.
Forgiving helps make us complete and is an important virtue in perfecting our hearts and minds.
So, as through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we are forgiven our sins, so too we must forgive the sins of others. Because someone who cannot forgive and move on will always live an imperfect, incomplete life.
I would like to add to this, to forgive ourselves too. As so many of us live with unwarranted shame and guilt. This is not how Jesus sees us. It is something the world has imposed upon us in one way or another.
21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the churcha] sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’
22 Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-sevenb] times.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
23 ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talentsc] was brought to him;
25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.
26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.”
27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;d] and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.”
29 Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.”
30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt.
31 When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.
32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?”
34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt.
35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sistere] from your heart.’