The primary thrust of Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount in regards to forgiveness focuses on our forgiveness towards others. However, most of the emphasis in Christianity today focuses on God‘s forgiveness towards us. To understand this principle of God‘s forgiveness better, we need to understand his standards that he holds us accountable to in order to know what we would be requesting to be forgiven from. This is where the Ten Commandments come in.
The Ten Commandments are God‘s standards for all people, which is why Bible records that they were written in stone and delivered to an entire nation at once. While the commandments cover many behavioral and ethical practices, they all began with a focus on the one true God, and to avoid the worship of any other god besides him.
One of the most recurring themes throughout the entire Bible is God‘s denouncement of Israel’s idolatry, and the idolatry of the nations around them.
Exodus 34:17: “”You shall make no cast idols for yourselves.”
Leviticus 19:4: “”‘Don’t turn to idols, nor make molten gods for yourselves. I am Yahweh your God.”
Deuteronomy 29:16-18: “(for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; and you have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them); lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from Yahweh our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations; lest there should be among you a root that bears gall and wormwood;”
1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. amen.”
Yet when people turned with all of their hearts back to the one true God, God was willing to forgive them.
Joel 2:12-13: “”Yet even now,” says Yahweh, “turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” Tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to Yahweh, your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and relents from sending calamity.”
This principle was played out among one of the New Testament congregations. Even amidst the prevalence of idolatry in that culture, the apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers and encourages them in regards to their turning from idols to the one true God. They stood as believers who were forgiven of the most basic of sins against a holy God, the sin of idolatry.
1 Thessalonians 1:9: “For they themselves [the believers in Macedonia and Achaia] report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,”
From the typical human standpoint of personal gain and pleasure, there really is no compelling reason to avoid sinning against God by committing adultery, or stealing, or even coveting unless there is an ultimate and final authority to hold us accountable for these very private and destructive actions. None of the other commandments have bearing unless they are rooted in the authority of the one true God.
It is only when we come to understand the singular nature of the God of the Bible and we recognize he is the Creator of all that we can begin to recognize our propensity toward actions that offend him; i.e., sin. To turn from idolatry to the one true God then provides context for seeking his forgiveness, as we desire to be pleasing to him, ensuring we have not offended him with our actions. It is only then that the rest of the Ten Commandments, and the biblical writings that follow, have any true bearing in our lives.
This is the basis of forgiveness. There is only one true God, and he has standards he expects of us. Yet this God has declared he is a forgiving God even if we are undeserving because of our selfish and careless motives. If we turn to him with all of our hearts, he then desires us to reflect his image in this world and expects us to exhibit that same forgiveness towards others who may exhibit selfishness and carelessness towards us. This is the message of the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 6:14-15: “”For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
The one true God desires us to recognize his sovereignty in all things, and in so doing, to honor and respect him by also abiding by the same principles we expect of him. If we are seeking his undeserved forgiveness, we should exhibit that same type of undeserved forgiveness towards others.
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