Peace through a forgiving attitude

Titus 3:1-2 – Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.

One of the beautiful things about Paul’s letter to Titus is how all-encompassing his instruction is that is still relevant for all believers. Many believers today will use this letter primarily for understanding the qualifications for leaders within the congregation of God, which is the bulk of the first chapter. However, as the little letter continues, we find instruction regarding all types of individuals who were coming to faith in then Messiah. While Paul’s primary reason for writing was to assist Titus in overseeing congregations in Crete, it gives us insights into the very practices and characteristics that were expected of God’s people in that day and age.

As we can see in the verses highlighted above, out of all of the positive aspects that was to be demonstrated by believers, God’s people were expected to be peaceable. Yeshua clearly illustrated this principle within his teaching.

Matthew 5:7, 9 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

In order to be peaceable, an individual must have a forgiving, merciful attitude. Peace can typically only be had when one party relinquishes the right to force their position or rights on another. According to Yeshua and Paul, this relinquishing responsibility, this forgiving attitude, falls to the believer. This is how peace is accomplished, when one is forgiving of another’s “incorrect” position, looking beyond that to the more significant aspect of saving the relationship.

This is the same principle in how God has provided salvation for all people:

Titus 3:4-5 – But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us –not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy…

God’s mercy is the only thing that has allowed mankind to come to him in spirit and in truth. God relinquished his right to be severe (even though he would be justified in doing so) so that he could demonstrate his sincerity in desiring restoration. God created peace by being willing to save the relationship with all of mankind through his mercy. This is what mercy is: the extension of a forgiving attitude. When we realize that God has been offering this to us, it incites a yearning for repentance, and to modify our rebellious stance towards him.

This is how peace is created: “to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” This is the peace that brings salvation to the world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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Being nice people in a world that is not nice

Ephesians 4:32 – And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

We see so much strife and anger in this day and age. People are spending inordinate amounts of time and energy endorsing popular slogans, political parties, and national movements for or against some agenda or another. To our collective shame, much of it is also stemming from those who claim to be believers, those who say they have trusted in the God of the Bible.

Our age of social unrest is little different than that of the first century believers. Besides being caught up in one of the most revolutionary times in the life of God’s people, they were also subject to political wrangling not only of Rome, but of their own countrymen. Civil disputes, especially among themselves, were rampant; in many respects the nation was on the verge of civil war. The Jewish state had rarely been as factious and divisive politically, and families were pitted against one another.

Yet into this fray, Paul writes that believers should be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another. They should be nice people in a world that is not nice.

Colossians 3:12-13 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.

Critical to this “niceness” is the idea that their forgiveness should be patterned on the forgiveness that God offered them. If we take Paul’s advice at face value and look to God’s precedent and pattern of forgiveness, we may be able to see some ways that we can faithfully represent him as his people in this world.

Psalm 103:8-14 – Yahweh is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.

First of all, God is stated to be abounding in chesed, the Hebrew word for kindness and faithful goodness.
He is slow to anger. His patience is long and he is willing to suspend judgment until absolutely necessary.
Even when his anger is expressed, it is momentary and brief in the overall scope of his dealings with mankind. His anger does not linger with slow-burning constancy.
When he does express his justice at unfaithfulness, it is not as would be deserved; it is comparatively light for the injustice that has been committed.
Most importantly, when he forgives, it is complete. It is illustrated as being as far as east is from west; complete opposites that stretch away infinitely from one another.
Certainly within the family of believers, he chooses to relate to us a compassionate parent, not as an authoritarian stranger. His compassion for the bond of faith is as of a loving parent to his children.
Ultimately, his dealings with mankind are based on the generous and sobering understanding that we are temporary individuals, we are not permanent to this time and place.

If we could learn to review, accept, and enact God’s principles, forgiving others in the same manner he is forgiving of us, imagine how we could be a force for good and “niceness” in the world today. By applying the same type of faithfulness and compassion with others, and certainly among the family of believers, we could have lasting impact in our efforts to reduce strife and anger in our world.

We are all only here for a short amount of time as temporary pin-points of light within an entire galaxy of humanity. Let’s remember we are all dust, extending God’s kindness and mercy, his chesed, while we can.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The limits of forgiveness within the household of faith

Luke 17:3-4 – Take heed to yourselves: If your brother should sin, rebuke him; and if he should repent, forgive him. And if he should sin against you seven times in the day, and seven times should return to you, saying ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Forgiving someone when they have wronged us almost always feels like a huge effort on our part. Whatever they have done or said, we have been slighted, misunderstood, or worse, harmed in some way by someone’s offense against us. If we are able in those instances to gather our senses and relate to them how we have been slighted, they will many times be remorseful and apologetic of having overstepped a boundary. When we remember and enact these words of the Messiah, we can feel very spiritual and obedient by forgiving the harm that may have been done.

But what if that individual turns right around and commits the same offense or another transgression against us? How does that compounded offense make us feel? We even have a saying for it, it’s as if they have “added insult to injury.”

In no uncertain terms, Yeshua commands us to continue the forgiveness and release that we originally offered to them when they are demonstrating remorse at having offended us. Seven times, or “seventy times seven” times, the number is irrelevant, because the emphasis is on the repeated nature of the offense. Usage of the number is not meant by Yeshua to be a literal definition of how many times forgiveness must occur, but a hyperbolic way of illustrating the importance of repeated forgiveness.

Why is this a significant aspect of the believer’s daily walk? Repeated forgiveness is necessary for one very good and simple reason: because we as believers repeatedly ask for forgiveness for our offenses against God. Have you ever approached God sincerely asking for forgiveness for saying something harmful to someone else, only to reflexively and without thinking to do it again later that same day? If we have the expectation that he will forgive us when we are genuinely repentant, then we should do likewise.

But what are we to do in the case of the fellow believer does not repent or does not ask for forgiveness for having wronged us? Are we obligated to continue to fulfill this level of repeated forgiveness?

Yeshua provides some additional insight to this type of scenario in Matthew 18.

Matthew 18:15 – “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.

This sounds right in line with what Yeshua was teaching us in the Luke passage above. However, here in Matthew, he continues with a different portrayal of events, a different reaction by the brother who has offended us.

Matthew 18:16-17 – “But if he won’t listen [i.e., does not repent], take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. “If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the congregation of believers. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the congregation, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.

According to Yeshua, the fact that we are to repeatedly forgive repeated offenses is dependent on the repentant nature of the individual who has offended us. If they are not sincere in repenting of a transgression and are instead deliberately causing harm, then Yeshua has also provided a method for dealing with them.

While this formal aspect of congregational involvement dealing with the unrepentant fellow believer is less practiced today, it is no less valid. Of course God desires that we forgive those who may do something against us when they are sincere in recognizing the offense. However, we are not expected to be doormats for fellow believers to take advantage of the generosity of our forgiveness.

Therefore, the limit of forgiveness with fellow believers is non-repentance. There is no obligation for continued forgiveness when there is no repentant attitude on their part. However, there does need to be involvement with others to bring closure to this type of behavior. This process ensures fair dealings and purity within the congregation of believers.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Forgiveness and doing good to others consumes the evil in the world

Romans 12:17-21 – Give back to no one evil for evil; providing right things before all men. If possible — so far as in you — with all men being in peace; not avenging yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath, for it has been written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will recompense again, says the Lord.’ If, then, your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for this doing, coals of fire you shall heap upon his head; Be not overcome by the evil, but overcome, in the good, the evil.

Forgiveness is all about release and pardon. In order to “be at peace with all men,” an individual has to conscientiously let go of any ill will or hard feelings towards others. If we as believers are serious about our walk with God, we must work to find ways to overcome any bitterness that may exist in our relationships with others.

However, letting go is only half of the equation; within you there must be another aspect to overcoming evil that works to create this peace.

Paul’s view of this and his encouragement to the believers in Rome stems from the wisdom of the Proverbs and from the teachings of Yeshua. In order to overcome actions by others that can appear as evil or that may cause bitterness or harm, do good instead.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
Matthew 5:44-45 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

For a long time I struggled with the idea of “heaping burning coals” on someone’s head; it seems so contrary to the idea of actually doing good to them. It is as if I was being encouraged to do good as a way of somehow getting back at them, and that just seems to be the opposite of the intent of the teaching.

The idea is not that you will be putting coals on someone else; it really means that they will be so ashamed of their evil actions, they will feel as if that is the case. Have you ever been severely embarassed in public? Your face was likely flushed, and you could feel the warmth as the blood rushed to your head. This is what the “heaping coals” implies. When someone does something bad to you, and you instead turn around and do something good for them, they will feel ashamed and embarrassed, and are likely to feel truly sorry for their wrongs.

Albert Barnes writes:

Coals of fire are doubtless emblematical of “pain.” But the idea here is not that in so doing we shall call down divine vengeance on the man; but the apostle is speaking of the natural effect or result of showing him kindness. Burning coals heaped on a man’s head would be expressive of intense agony. So the apostle says that the “effect” of doing good to an enemy would be to produce pain. But the pain will result from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an apprehension of divine displeasure that may lead to repentance. To do this, is not only perfectly right, but it is desirable. If a man can be brought to reflection and true repentance, it should be done.

That the ultimate vengeance belongs to God adds an additional layer to this admonition. This is a truly radical way of thinking about the believers role in the world: in the sense we are speaking about here, our doing good to others is God’s preferred measure of vengeance on wrongdoing. When we forgive others and instead do good, we are acting in a measure of divine judgment that can bring about true repentance. Ultimately, when your enemies are consumed in the fires of this type of judgment, all that remains are friends.

Barnes concludes:

If people would act on the principles of the gospel, the world would soon be at peace. No man would suffer himself many times to be overwhelmed in this way with coals of fire. It is not human nature, bad as it is; and if Christians would meet all unkindness with kindness, all malice with benevolence, and all wrong with right, peace would soon pervade the community, and even opposition to the gospel might soon die away.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The foundation of peace

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

To be a peacemaker is to be one who overcomes conflict. An online dictionary defines someone who pacifies as a person who “quells the anger, agitation, or excitement of” others, or a specific situation.

In personal relationships, this can most simply be accomplished through forgiveness. The biblical concept of forgiveness conveys ideas of dismissal or sending away of a burden; a release or letting go of insult or injury; a covering over of an offense or transgression. According to Yeshua, these are the characteristics of the true children of God.

While this may be the simplest way to create peace, it is not always easy. Forgiveness involves rejection of natural feelings of anger at having been offended, or overcoming hurt and real emotional pain. These symptoms of anger and hurt are natural, while indications of forgiveness can seem forced and unnatural. This is why it is difficult and rarely practiced in genuine ways. True forgiveness involves dying to self: the right for the self to be angry, the right for the self to inflict pain back for pain received.

But Yeshua calls us to this higher path of dying to self. Self-sacrifice was the object lesson of his life, culminating in the most widely known object lesson of all; crucifixion of self for the sake of others. Even in the enactment of this ultimate object lesson, he was forgiving those who were physically nailing him to the cross.

Luke 23:33-34 – And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Forgiveness can be offered when one realizes that those causing the offense may not be totally aware of their actions; they are likely acting out reflexively or under the compulsion of their own misguided nature. To rise above these situations is to reject the compulsion to respond in kind, and to choose instead the way of peace and forgiveness.

I was struck recently in learning that the root of the word Jerusalem means “foundation of peace.” That meaning has far-reaching applications throughout biblical interpretation, but none so meaningful as being the eternal habitation of God with his people.

Revelation 21:2-3, 7 – And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. … He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

According to writer of Hebrews, believers have inherited this city already. As such, this “foundation of peace” should be our base of operations, our current and active environment.

Hebrews 12:14, 22-24 – Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness ​– ​without it no one will see the Lord. … you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…

If this is where we live, having died to ourselves, then this is how we should act. We should pursue peace with everyone. This is what sets God’s people apart; this is who we are.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Growing in the maturity of forgiveness

Core of the Bible podcast #35 – Growing in the maturity of forgiveness

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness is a quality that comes from a mature heart, a heart that knows and understands how powerful forgiveness is.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:36-37

This teaching of Yeshua instructs us to not criticize others. It also highlights several different aspects of judgment and forgiveness, so let’s take a look at some of these ideas.

UNIVERSAL BALANCE AND EQUITY

Firstly, it implies that there is a balance, or a universal equity that God maintains. This is brought out in similar passages speaking of this aspect of God’s nature. There are national examples of this as well as personal examples. Let’s look at a couple of national examples to start.

National justice – Israel

Ezekiel 7:8-9 – I will pour out my wrath on you very soon; I will exhaust my anger against you and judge you according to your ways. I will punish you for all your detestable practices.  I will not look on you with pity or spare you. I will punish you for your ways and for your detestable practices within you. Then you will know that it is I, the LORD, who strikes.

National justice – Babylon

Jeremiah 25:14 – “For many nations and great kings will enslave them [Babylonians], and I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.’ “

Personal justice as consequence of actions

Job 4:8 – In my experience, those who plow injustice and those who sow trouble reap the same.

Galatians 6:7-9 – Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

2 Peter 2:1 – There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves.

In this same way, Yeshua teaches that if an individual is overly critical of others, the same level of critical judgment will be applied to them.

Matthew 7:2 – “For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.

Therefore, if we desire to be forgiven by God and others, we should be forgiving and God will then use the same measure of forgiveness with us.

FORGIVENESS: THE OTHER SIDE OF JUDGMENT

While condemnation and judgment are the focus of Yeshua’s teaching, forgiveness is introduced as a quality that sits outside of judgment, as a counter-balance to judgment on the scale of overall mercy.

When judgment is the primary objective, the focus of forgiveness becomes diminished, and mercy wanes. However, when forgiveness is the primary objective, judgment and condemnation are diminished, and mercy increases. Like two sides of the same coin, both judgment and forgiveness have a role in the merciful life of a believer. Both are necessary, but both serve different purposes.

Judgment provides a needed distinction between right and wrong. We rely on our judgment to ensure that fairness is being practiced or demonstrated. This is not a complex function.

For example, when two young children are playing together, they can become possessive of their belongings. Even toddlers can recognize when playmates are being fair or unfair when it comes to sharing toys.

Forgiveness is a more complex quality that requires an increased level of maturity. To express forgiveness, there  not only has to be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed (that is, a judgment), but another “something” beyond that judgment that goes beyond and reaches out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

Forgiveness is the counter-intuitive solution for bringing closure to unresolved conflict or to reducing an escalation of aggression. This takes maturity of wisdom, as the natural base response is almost always to respond to injustice in kind. It also takes maturity through humility, as it is more godly to simply accept being personally wronged for the sake of forgiveness in a relationship than trying to continually force your rights upon others.

1 Corinthians 6:5-7 – I say this to your shame! Can it be that there is not one wise person among you who is able to arbitrate between fellow believers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers! As it is, to have legal disputes against one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

1 Peter 2:21-23 – For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

Our perspective should always be to entrust ourselves to God; this is where the capacity and the ability to forgive others can come from. When we do so, we are fulfilling our objective of acting and reacting in the same way as our Father.

We see all through God’s word that he is forgiving and slow to anger. This is why God’s judgment may not at times be recognized by others because the timing of this judgment by God does not always immediately follow an infraction.

Nahum 1:3 – The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will never leave the guilty unpunished…

Psalm 86:15 – But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth.

Psalm 103:8 – The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.

FORGIVENESS AND BALANCE EXEMPLIFIED

This theme of God being slow to anger is related over and over again throughout the Bible. However, there is a passage in Nehemiah that highlights and contrasts his long-suffering compassion with the universal balance of justice we have been talking about.

Nehemiah 9:16-25 – But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to your commands. They refused to listen and did not remember your wonders you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, and you did not abandon them. Even after they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, “This is your god who brought you out of Egypt,” and they had committed terrible blasphemies, you did not abandon them in the wilderness because of your great compassion. During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go. You sent your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. You provided for them in the wilderness forty years, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. You gave them kingdoms and peoples and established boundaries for them. They took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and of the land of King Og of Bashan. You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky and brought them to the land you told their ancestors to go in and possess. So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them. They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in your great goodness.

Even though the people had not listened to God’s commands, he did not immediately crush them and deliver them over to others. His long compassion and slowness to anger allowed them to accomplish many great things for his power and purpose to be known.

However, as amazing and enabling as God’s compassion and forgiveness can be, the Bible is also clear that justice will be realized in the balance of God’s Creation, in his time. Even if it is not something that occurs right away, it still comes to pass.

Nehemiah 9:26-30 – But they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They flung your law behind their backs and killed your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to you. They committed terrible blasphemies. So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies. But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in your sight. So you abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven and rescued them many times in your compassion. You warned them to turn back to your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey. You were patient with them for many years, and your Spirit warned them through your prophets, but they would not listen. Therefore, you handed them over to the surrounding peoples.

So through all of this we can see the contrast of judgment and forgiveness, back and forth, over and over again. God is patient and compassionate, but if rebellion continues there comes a point where justice is needed to restore the universal balance. And all of this occurs in God’s timing, not our own. When this lack of immediate justice happens, we may feel as the prophet Habakkuk did:

Habakkuk 1:13 – Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. So why do you tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are you silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?

This is why God may appear to us to be hidden or not taking action when we think he should. It may just be that the cycle of his long-suffering compassion is in play before the universal balance of justice needs to be restored.

This is also why we are commanded to refrain from our own vengeance.

Romans 12:17-21 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Our role as God’s people is to not focus on the natural response toward judgment and retribution, but instead to let God be God and to focus instead on doing good through forgiveness.

Through recognition of the reality of this universal balance that God maintains, on even the most basic of levels we should be challenged to grow in maturity in our relationships and our dealings with others. As we encourage the seeds of this nascent maturity of forgiveness to thrive, they are enabled to grow into acts of mercy, and ultimately to blossom into genuine love.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Our love for all others should be as natural as the elements of God’s Creation

Matthew 5:44-45 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

I find this passage to be enigmatic among the sayings of Yeshua, as it seems to contrast believers’ actions that are active with those of God that are assumed to be passive. We are commanded to actively love and pray for our adversaries, however, God’s natural order of things is for the sun to shine and the rain to fall. Is God actively blessing the evil by causing the sun to shine on their crops or actively sending rain for the purpose of blessing the unrighteous? Or are these impartial, passive blessings that are received by the evil and unrighteous just for the privilege of living in the natural world that God has created?

Based on the perspective of the biblical writings, God is not passive in his Creation, but he is actively involved with blessing all of mankind, while still ordering all things according to his will and purpose.

Ecclesiastes 3:11, 13-14 – He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end. … It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him.
Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

According to the apostle Paul, God’s invisible attributes can be deduced from his visible, natural Creation.

Romans 1:20 – For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Paul actually engages this type of argument while reasoning with the Greek philosophers at the Areopagus.

Acts 17:24-27 – “The God who made the world and everything in it ​– ​he is Lord of heaven and earth ​– ​does not live in shrines made by hands. “Neither is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. “From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. “He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

If we consider that even being alive as an individual on this planet is truly a gift from God, something that we as individual beings have zero control over, how much more the bounty of God’s provision is evidenced through the natural order of his Creation. This was even recognized among the secular philosophers of the day. Consider the statement of Seneca, a Roman philosopher of the first century, which is almost a direct parallel to the saying of Yeshua:

“If you imitate the gods, give favors to the ungrateful: for the sun rises for the wicked, and the seas are open to pirates.”

This idea of providing favors to the ungrateful, or as Yeshua states, loving and praying for the wicked and unrighteous, was considered a “godly” attribute even among the philosophers of the day.

John Wesley has an interesting take on this verse, focusing instead on how those generic blessings are received by those who don’t know God.

“He gives them such blessings as they will receive at his hands. Spiritual blessings they will not receive.”

This implies that non-believers, while not willing to submit to the spiritual requirements of God, nonetheless are willing to take whatever benefit they can from the Creation of God and use it for their own ends. For me, this illustrates how things meant to bless others can be taken for granted with no recognition or acknowledgement of the privilege provided. I believe this captures the sentiment that Yeshua is seeking to provide in this instruction.

Adam Clarke provides even further clarity in this regard as to the results of the those favors or blessings, even if they by-and-large go unacknowledged.

“There is nothing greater than to imitate God in doing good to our enemies. All the creatures of God pronounce the sentence of condemnation on the revengeful: and this sentence is written by the rays of the sun, and with the drops of rain, and indeed by all the natural good things, the use of which God freely gives to his enemies. If God had not loved us while we were his enemies, we could never have become his children: and we shall cease to be such, as soon as we cease to imitate him.”

God demonstrates that he loves all people by giving them life and blessings through his Creation. Yeshua encourages us as believers to mimic our heavenly Father by having our prayers and intercessions for the ungrateful and unworthy simply be a natural outworking of who we are, just as the sun rising and the rain falling are the natural outworking of God’s handiwork on a daily basis. Our love and forgiveness for all others should be as natural for us as sunshine and rain are for God: all day, every day.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The dominion of forgiveness

Romans 12:21: “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This famous verse written by Paul to the Roman congregation, while well-known, is much less practiced than it is widely known.

The word for overcoming comes from the Greek root word which means victory, or conquest. The famous Nike statue known as winged victory (the armless, headless torso of a woman with wings spread wide) is based on this very same Greek word.

This famous verse comes contextually on the heels of Paul explaining how vital it is for believers to treat others, especially those who are adversarial, with uncommon love and respect.

Romans 12:17-18,20: “Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. … Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Paul here is actually quoting an Old Testament principle that is found in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for so doing you shall heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward you with good.”

This was also a core teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, demonstrating a thread of consistent emphasis throughout all of scripture. It was obviously given fresh life and emphasis in the teachings of Yeshua, and then deeply ingrained into the mindset of the early believers.

Matthew 5:44-45: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. “

Yeshua explains that practicing this ideal signifies the believer as a true child of God. A child of God carries the same spiritual DNA as its parent and will therefore conform to the practices of the parent.

This ability to overcome is rooted in the concept of forgiveness, as no one can truly bless their enemies unless they have let infractions go. It is one thing to follow the command with gritted teeth, uttering curses under our breath, trying to be faithful to what we have been tasked to do. However, it is another thing entirely to truly forgive someone who has wronged us, and to serve them honestly from the heart. To be able to practice this overcoming quality, believers must be willing to forgive. Doing so enables us to actually and effectively practice this vital principle that Yeshua commanded us.

This idea of being born of God and overcoming is also carried forward by the apostle John. This is the only other passage in the New Testament that speaks of this ability to overcome, or be victorious.

1 John 5:1-5: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is loving God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Our faith in the Messiah allows us to overcome the world, and in overcoming the world, we are therefore afforded the ability to overcome the evil that is present everywhere. This is the scriptural solution to evil in the world. It begins with obedient children of God respecting and honoring all others in a way that honors God.

This is how God‘s plan for the dominion of believers in the world takes place, not through conquest and bloodshed, not through political reform, but through simple forgiveness and honest service to others in the name of God.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Those who fear the Lord seek and pursue peace and forgiveness

In previous discussions, we’ve seen that forgiveness is all about creating peace. When we look at the teachings of Yeshua, he relates the importance of being a peacemaker.

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

This is a key teaching that was passed on to the disciples, as is evident in their later writings.

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

Peter also has much to say on this topic and offers wide-ranging insights that we could spend a lifetime in applying with those around us.

1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.

When we are forgiving others, we are able to overlook insults and not pay back evil for evil. But Peter goes further by illustrating these worthy sentiments in a quotation from an Old Testament passage.

1 Peter 3:10-12 For the one who wants to love life and to see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and let him turn away from evil and do what is good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.

Peter here uses a direct quote from Psalm 34:12-16. So we can see that this idea of seeking peace was nothing new from the Old Testament into the New. When teaching about peace, forgiveness, and doing what’s right, Yeshua and his disciples were not teaching radical new doctrine at every turn, they were instead bringing forth the richness of established torah or instruction of God into their current day and situations.

To seek peace is to diligently look for it and to hunt for it until it can be found. To pursue peace is to chase after it once it’s found, as it seems to be an elusive quality that is always active and always moving. And this makes sense, as our interactions with others are not static. In all of our relationships, we are constantly making decisions that affect one another in both positive and negative ways. Therefore, peace needs to be reestablished at every new interaction.

One critical aspect of this peacemaking and forgiveness is provided in the context of the passage from Psalm 34.

Psalm 34:11-14 Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is someone who desires life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.

The fear of the Lord is demonstrated through seeking peace and doing good. Peacemakers can be called Sons of God because they fear the Lord. His children are those who believe in him and who have respect for him in all things. If we are not seeking peace and forgiveness with others, we are not exhibiting the basic characteristic required of his children: that we honor and respect God by honoring and respecting others. Forgiveness with the goal of creating peace is not a weakness, but a strength demonstrating a true fear of the Lord.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The authority of the one true God is the basis of forgiveness

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.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.