“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18
The older I grow and the more cognizant of my weaknesses and thorns in the flesh I become, the more precious the Savior’s admonition to forgive one another “seventy times seven” is to me. Giving people second, third, fourth, and umpteen chances to change, repent, and improve is what Jesus is all about.
The Lord repeatedly taught that His hands are outstretched and that He is eagerly waiting for us to turn to Him that we may be healed, strengthened, and redeemed. He said:
“They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
When we recall that Paul taught we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” we realize that the Savior was talking about all of us (Romans 3:23). He encourages all of us to repent, change, and progress. He lamented that the people of His day would not accept His generous invitation to repent and be saved:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)
Hens are protective. They run around herding their chicks and warding off danger. But if the chicks resist the hen’s efforts and run away, the hen can’t do anything about it. Yet, the Savior is more than a hen. He will search for and find the stray and bring it back to safety so long as the stray wishes to be found. The Messiah taught:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:14-17).
God is all about second chances – dozens and dozens of them. He desires us to accept His offer to come to His Son, Jesus Christ, to be lifted up and healed and saved. Jesus explained His profound joy in saving those who are lost, who have sinned, or who are broken beyond human repair:
“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
“And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray” (Matthew 18:11-13).
The Lord loves a person who repents! Repentance is not a scary idea. It doesn’t mean whipping yourself or living in a monastery or renouncing a normal life. Rather, it simply means to turn away from that which is wrong, harmful, and bad to that which is right, uplifting, and good. President Russell M. Nelson, a modern prophet of Jesus Christ, explained:
“Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.
“The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”
“Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
“Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. . . .
“When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him.8 When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!” (President Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” General Conference, April, 2019).
Repentance is empowering and freeing! The Atonement of Jesus Christ, His redemption for all who will believe in Him and follow His laws, is the greatest event that has ever or will ever transpire. Because the Savior voluntarily laid down His sinless life, He gained the power to pardon sinners. Because He lived perfectly and obeyed every celestial law, He gained the right to forgive those who lived imperfectly and who broke heavenly law. His blood, His grace, His love is what saves us from ourselves. If we show Him a willing heart, He takes it, mends it, and molds us into who we should be.
The Easter season which we are in is special because it focuses on forgiveness, divine love, and the possibility for renewal. 70×7 is the Lord’s pattern. Peter anciently asked the Redeemer: “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” He benevolently responded: “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Of course, the Lord was not saying that we should keep score and forgive only 490 times. Rather, He was illustrating the we need to have a forgiving heart and to continuously forgive. When people make mistakes, forgive them – even if they don’t apologize or beg for forgiveness. It is our duty to forgive everyone; God will forgive whom He chooses based on their actions, desires, and knowledge. But we should willingly, lovingly, mercifully forgive everyone, understanding that we ourselves are imperfect and stand in need of constant forgiveness.
How many of us can make it through even a single day without offending someone, getting angry, saying a coarse word, feeling pride, thinking something improper, making fun of others, or any number of a thousand other sins? We have need of daily repentance and reformation. Most of us would make it only a matter of weeks or months before we used up our 490 chances if that was in fact the real number. Fortunately, 70×7 is a way of being – a lifestyle of forgiveness, mercy, and love.
An ancient scripture contains one of the most beautiful phrases. Micah 6:8 asks rhetorically:
“[W]hat doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
He deals justly, lovingly, mercifully, and humbly with us and expects us to do the same to others. Did not the Lord say; “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19)? Can we truly follow Him without doing our best to be like Him, emulate His perfect example, and do the things He would if He were in our shoes? If the Lord is so willing and anxious to forgive us hundreds upon hundreds of times for the stupid, and sometimes malicious, mistakes we make and sins we commit, they why are we so quick to close the doors of forgiveness and change to our fellow sojourners here in mortality?
An ancient Hebrew prophet once asked his people a question that referred to the sharing of physical possessions with those less fortunate than ourselves, but which can easily be applied to spiritual things, including forgiveness and mercy:
“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
“And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
“And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Mosiah 4:19-21).
We are all beggars. We have all fallen short. We have all sinned. Because we are in the same situation of needing the Savior to redeem us, we have no right to deny forgiveness, mercy, love, renewal, and repentance to those who are equally dependent, fallen, and needy. 70×7 should be our slogan. We must forgive! We must learn to quickly relinquish our grudges and let go of our anger, hate, and haughtiness.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive our brother on the first intimations of repentance, and asking forgiveness; and should we even forgive our brother, or even our enemy, before he repent or ask forgiveness, our heavenly Father would be equally as merciful unto us” (Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 3, 383, July 2, 1839).
Imagine a world where people forgave those who committed wrongs against them, or who offended them, or who said horrid things about them, before they asked for it! Imagine what such a willingness to forgive would do to a person’s heart. He would be filled with the pure love of Christ, charity, mercy, kindness, understanding, meekness, and honor. Such a person would be, in a word, like the Savior.
In the parable of the prodigal son, you will recall, the father saw his rebellious son in the distance coming towards him. Before the son arrived, before the son asked forgiveness, before the son could do anything to make amends for his wrongs and his pride and his stupidity, the father ran to him, hugged him, and extended his tender mercy.
This is how forgiveness ought to work. If someone wrongs you, forgive them straight away without hesitation or qualification. Don’t let their sin canker your soul. You are not their judge, so you must forgive regardless of whether the offender deserves or desires it.
Likewise, if you are the one who has wronged another, wouldn’t you feel greater love toward that person if they forgave you immediately? Would not that willingness to extend undeserved mercy work upon your heart and mind and make you, in turn, more willing to forgive others in your life? Forgiveness can melt icy hearts, break down barriers, erase grudges, cause fresh understanding between opposing parties, and bind people together with cords of love.
Easter should turn our hearts to Christ. Specifically, it should remind us of His unmatched sacrifice. That sacrifice, called the Atonement, makes all the difference. We can be saved, redeemed, healed, renewed, and exalted if we trust in Christ and follow His commandments. He offers us this priceless gift if we will but follow Him, repent, and apply His Atonement:
The Lord gave this definitive word to the prophet Alma in ancient times:
“Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
“Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.
“And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation” (Mosiah 26:29-31).
If we do our part, the Lord will forgive us – even if we sin 491 times. If we confess to Him, and to His constituted authorities if our sins are serious enough, we may graciously be forgiven, cleansed, and redeemed! The Israelite prophet Lehi declared:
“And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free. . . .
“Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
“Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved. . . .
“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and call things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
“And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life” (2 Nephi 2:4, 6-9, 26-28).
I repeat that the purpose of the Savior’s Atonement is to save! He wants to save all of us – me and you both. Think of the worst person you know, or the worst person you’ve read about in history; Jesus wants to save that person because his or her soul is precious in His sight. It was for him or her, and for you, dear reader, that He died.
Jesus is the Mediator who grants you the opportunity to choose eternal life and salvation rather than a fallen state and eternal separation from God. Only His blood washes away sins. Only His grace heals. Only Jesus saves.
The son of the same Alma just mentioned, also named Alma, revealed these precious sentiments about the Atonement, which I cherish:
“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me” (Alma 7:11-13).
Do you see how strongly He loves you? Do you see that He took upon Himself your sins, transgressions, mistakes, sicknesses, pains, depression, sadness, loneliness, and everything dark, wicked, and horrible you’ve ever experienced. Do you see that He suffered and died for you in order to give you the opportunity to follow Him into the Kingdom of Heaven?
The best thanks you can give to your Savior for reaching out to rescue and redeem you is to repent of your own failings and to forgive others who have wronged you. Let this Easter, and every day, be a day of forgiveness, mercy, and love. Learn to forgive quickly. Learn to ask for forgiveness right away. Apply mercy liberally and plead for it consistently. Make 70×7 your slogan this holiday and turn to the only One who can save, your Savior, Redeemer, Advocate, Priest, and King, Jesus Christ.
April 14, 2022
*If anyone is interested, I created a shirt with the 70×7 logo. If ever you’ve wanted to support me and my work, this is one way to do it and also spread the message of forgiveness to a society that is in particular need to forgive and be forgiven.*