Remember Cain? When I read those lines in the book of Genesis where God deals with Cain’s sin and retribution I always think of the movie ‘Michael’… “I put a BLOCK on you!”. You see, we’re all born with a little justice alarm that goes off when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. Kids have it the worst of any of us. No filters, no discretion. Just try grabbing a toy away from a 3 year old who wasn’t done playing with it and you’ll know how acutely that child is in touch with the idea of what is right and fair. But for Cain, humanity’s original son, God in His mercy blocked the natural tendency of human retribution against injustice. He said:
“If anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
~Genesis 4:15, New International Version
Then along comes Lamech, arguably one of the most violently arrogant men in human history. Lamech kills an innocent man in cold blood and then tries to escape justice by boasting about the retribution that he himself would magically bring on anyone who tried to hold him accountable. He says:
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
~Genesis 4:23-24, New International Version
To be honest, Lamech and his violent boasting make me sick to my stomach. And I think that’s the point. Do you hear the arrogance in his boast? God said he would revenge Cain 7 times – I’ll do it 77! He’s the epitome of human self-centeredness – brash, over the top, and out of control.
So when Peter asks his master Jesus about the limits of forgiveness, he’s not far from Lamech’s score-keeping mindset. But Jesus points him back to Lamech by saying:
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.“
~Matthew 18:22, New International Version
What’s His point? Go over the top in forgiveness. Forgive extravagantly, brashly, try to out-forgive God! Forgive like your life and freedom depended on it. Because it kind of does!
I am asking God what forgiveness is supposed to look like in my life. I’ve written at length about forgiveness and what it is not. It’s not about me feeling good and it’s not about making people happy with me. It’s not about living a lie. That said, how do I forgive lavishly, abundantly, even arrogantly? How do I live in freedom?
Thanks for reading!