By only the 6th generation of descendants, mankind had fallen far from the pristine peace and beauty of the Garden of Eden. Lamech spurned the sanctity of the marriage covenant by taking two wives and in a vengeful act killed a young man for striking him.
“Lamech said to his wives,
‘Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.'” Genesis 4:23-24 (NASB)
In this Song of the Sword (as it is called) Lamech essentially boasted, “If God promised to avenge an attack upon Cain seven-fold, you can be sure that anyone who hurts me will be avenged seventy-seven-fold!” Bitterness and revenge mark the natural course of the human heart.
A few thousand years later Simon Peter thought that he was finally getting things figured out. Jesus had just spent some time talking about sin and forgiveness, and it dawned upon Peter that the Jewish practice of forgiving a sin no more than three times was insufficient.
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'” Matthew 18:21 (NASB)
The response from Jesus was nothing short of shocking!
“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22 (NASB)
The Bible doesn’t spell it out clearly, but I would have a difficult time believing that Jesus didn’t have Lamech in mind.
In choosing independence from God, the bitter root has become the natural order of the human race. “Anybody that hurts me or does me wrong in any way is going to pay a steep price for their actions! I will make them pay! I will be avenged!” Such is the boast of the human heart.
Christ’s call, on the other hand, is to seemingly eternal patience with all who offend us. Love, peace, harmony, forgiveness—all are supernatural qualities expressed as we live out a supernatural faith.
In the end love conquers all. Not like a sharp sword violently wielded against our enemies, not like explosive artillery blasting their fortifications to pieces, but as the ceaseless persistence of the ocean. Wave after wave, this mighty force of love can eventually wear down even the greatest of man’s defenses.
Do you truly want to triumph in life? Then live the 490! No, not the natural pride-based pattern of revenge, but the persistent supernatural love of God to continually release those who hurt and offend us. In the end love will conquer all!