Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matt. 18:22)

WHEN MY CHILDREN were little, they occasionally squabbled over items from dolls to clothes to television programs. Most of the time they settled the dispute themselves, but occasionally they asked me to referee. One day Jessica insisted that I make Leigh give her the toy in question. After settling the dispute, I required them to apologize and ask each other for forgiveness.

Jessica wailed, “I’m tired of apologizing to her.”

Leigh retorted, “And I’m tired of forgiving you!”

Then came the ultimate question that everyone from Jesus’ time to the present has asked: “How many times do I have to forgive her?” That’s when all my Bible reading and verse memorization came in handy. I answered, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Then I added, “Maybe more if needed.”

Jesus continuously taught His followers the basic rules of love and discipleship. His parable of the unmerciful servant demonstrates the repercussions that can happen if we don’t forgive, for we ultimately want others to pardon us. Although we may never quite learn the valuable lesson of unending forgiveness, we ask Him not to keep an account each time we confess our sins. He gives us the magic number of seventy-seven times, but we know we want more times than that from Him. Forgiving is a matter of mathematics: from one to infinity.

Erase with forgiveness any lists of grievances you might have against another person.

Alice Thomas is an adjunct professor of English at Lone Star Montgomery College in Conroe, Texas. She loves to garden and read.