It is common to hear people say,”I’ve reached my limit”, “Enough is enough”, or “I’ve run out of patience”, as though they are now free to do as they please, but their assumption is wrong. We never have the right to do wrong—even when we’ve been done wrong! In Luke 17:3-10 Jesus taught His disciples that forgiveness is an attitude of the heart, rather than a matter of math. John Henry Jowett put it like this:
We are always inclined to set a limit to our moral obligations. We wish, as we say, “to draw a line somewhere.” We want to appoint a definite place where obligation ceases, and where the moral strain may be released. The Apostle Peter wished his Master to draw such a line in the matter of forgiveness. “Lord, how oft shall I forgive? Till seven times?” He wanted a tiny moral rule which he could apply to his brother’s conduct.
Not so the Lord. Our Master tells His disciple that in those spiritual realms relations are not governed by arithmetic. We cannot, by counting, measure off our obligations. Our repeated acts of forgiveness never bring us nearer to the freedom of revenge. No amount of sweetness will ever permit us to be bitter. We cannot, by being good, obtain a license to be evil. The fact of the matter is, if our goodness is of genuine quality, every act will more strongly dispose us to further goodness. It is the counterfeit element in our goodness that inclines us to the opposite camp. It is when our forgiveness is tainted that we anticipate the “sweetness” of revenge.