Non-reciprocation of evil shows us to be God’s children

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:44-45

In this pivotal teaching of Yeshua, some of the most ancient Greek manuscripts are missing the specific phrase, “bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you.” You will find in many modern versions of the Bible that those words are omitted from Matthew 5:44. However, they are found in the parallel passage in Luke.

Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

In fact, in Luke’s telling, Yeshua goes into even further detail of what this type of love looks like:

Luke 6:29-31 “If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. “Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. “

Some believe the words were added at a later date into the Matthew narrative to make the text agree with Luke. Regardless of scholarly opinions of the text, the fact remains that this principle of non-reciprocation of evil is abundant throughout the New Testament writings. This shows that the principle was understood and practiced by the disciples and early believers.

Romans 12:14, 17-21 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. … 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.

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.

1 Peter 2:20-21, 23 For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. … 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.

Yeshua encourages us to this same practice, and the reasoning he provides is that in doing so we demonstrate that we are seeking to be like our heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:45 …that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

When we treat all people equally, regardless of how they treat us, we exhibit the characteristic of God himself. This is how believers are identified as God’s children; not by claiming we are his children, but by demonstrating we do the same things as he does. This is how we bring glory to his name in this world, and cause his kingdom to grow.


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.

Understanding blasphemy of the holy Spirit

I tell you the truth, people will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit”).

Mark 3:28-30

This verse has caused no small stir among believers over the years, as many people are concerned that perhaps they have slandered the holy Spirit. Additionally, why is there something that God won’t forgive, and could we have possibly done so and thereby placed ourselves outside the bounds of his forgiveness for all eternity?

However, the intent of this verse is explained within itself, and with a balanced view of the historical context of this saying, the answer is less problematic than one may imagine.

First, let’s understand why Yeshua felt compelled to say this at all. The text says it was because they (his detractors) were saying that he had an unclean spirit. We know from other places that the holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, God.

Matthew 10:19-20 Whenever they hand you over for trial, do not worry about how to speak or what to say, for what you should say will be given to you at that time. For it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Luke tells us that Yeshua was filled with the holy Spirit.

Luke 4:1, 14 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, … Then Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside.

So, in this regard, to say that Yeshua had an unclean spirit was to blaspheme against God, since Yeshua was actually filled with the Spirit of God, not an unclean spirit. The scribes were accusing him of being possessed by “Baal’zebub, the prince of demons (or idolatrous gods).” To say this about Yeshua was to blaspheme or slander God himself.

Now we should look at the idea that this sin has eternal consequences that would never be forgiven. This can be taken in two senses.

First, if we look at the underlying text in a more literal sense, Yeshua mentions that they would not be forgiven “into the age,” for they were guilty of “an age-lasting sin.” In this more literal approach, Yeshua is warning the scribes that they would never be forgiven “into the age” (that is, the new age of the kingdom that he was establishing). Their sin of not recognizing God’s presence and power in the ministry of Yeshua would result in their perishing within that present age, prior to or within the destruction of Jerusalem less than 40 years away at that point.

Alternatively, if we hold to the eternal sense, then the warning of Yeshua still applies to “whoever” slanders the holy Spirit of God by claiming that Yeshua was an evil tool of Satan or of demons. Anyone who professes that understanding cannot be forgiven, for forgiveness was and is only through the name (that is, by believing in the truth of the ministry and character of) Yeshua.

Acts 4:11-12 “This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.  ” There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”

This specific unforgiveable sin was directed immediately at the scribes who were accusing him of being possessed by evil. There is no greater slander that can be leveled against the holy Spirit of God himself, the Father, the Creator of all, the Most High God, than to say he is evil. It makes sense that God cannot forgive anyone who believes he is evil, because they are not repentant of their ways and have no fear of God.

This also illustrates how unlikely it could be that anyone of us who may wonder if we have somehow accidentally blasphemed the holy Spirit of God and are now outside the bounds of his forgiveness.  We may have said many unrighteous and sinful things in our lives, but if we come to a point where we truly recognize who God is with a righteous respect and fear of who he is, and are repentant of our ways that have dishonored him, we can be forgiven.

Acts 2:38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”


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 maturity of forgiveness

Core of the Bible podcast #28 – The maturity of forgiveness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, especially as forgiveness reigns over judgment, and how forgiveness is a sign of emotional and spiritual maturity.

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

When we typically think of the quality of forgiveness, it’s usually placed as a virtue that is opposite hatred. To forgive is to love and not to hate. However, in this passage, we find that mercy and forgiveness are placed in direct contrast not with hatred, but with condemnation and judgment.

In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, it says “Seek not to judge at all. If you must judge, be not eager to condemn.”

Albert Barnes writes: “This command [to not judge] refers to rash, censorious, and unjust judgment.” He continues this thought by saying, “people are prone to be severe judges of others.”

Of course, it’s easy to condemn someone else, but that type of condemnation is not always based on all of the facts. Additionally, if we are overly judgmental of others, we may be guilty of committing the same acts.

For example, consider the passage of the woman caught in adultery in John 8.

John 8:3-11 – Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. “In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? ” They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? ”  “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Recognize it was primarily the scribes and Pharisees who were confronted with their hypocrisy.

Or consider the situation of David when the prophet Nathan confronts him on his affair with Bathsheba:

2 Samuel 12:1-7, 9, 13  – So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very large flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised her, and she grew up with him and with his children. From his meager food she would eat, from his cup she would drink, and in his arms she would sleep. She was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.  David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! “Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.”  Nathan replied to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD God of Israel says: You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife ​– ​you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword.” …  David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Hypocrisy and unjust judgment go hand in hand. Barnes concludes: “the heart is deceitful. When we judge others we should make it a rule to examine ourselves on that very point. Such an examination might greatly mitigate the severity of our judgment; or might turn the whole of our indignation against ourselves.”

When we are condemning and judgmental, we are are out of balance with God’s ideal, and we then place ourselves in the path of accountability with God himself.

Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Yeshua teaches us to not be critical of others. In this teaching, he highlights that there is a balance, or a universal equity that God maintains. If an individual is overly critical of others, the same level of critical judgment will be applied to them. This is not only conveyed in the treatment received by others, but in respect to our ultimate accountability to God.

Albert Barnes writes, ” You shall be judged by the same rule which you apply to others. It refers no less to the way in which people will judge of us, than to the rule by which God will judge us.”

John Gill adds, “Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; censure not men’s persons, and judge not their state, or adjudge them to condemnation for every offence in practice, or because they differ in principle, lest you should be treated in like manner by others; and especially, lest you should fall under the righteous censure, judgment, and condemnation of God.”

This condemnation by God is not always recognized by others because the timing of this judgment does not always immediately follow an infraction. However, the Bible promises that justice will always be realized in the balance of God’s Creation, in his time.

Now by contrast, there is fair judgment as a legitimate function of our abilities, and it provides a necessary distinction between right and wrong. We rely on our judgment to ensure that fairness is being practiced or demonstrated. Consider what Albert Barnes writes in regard to this aspect of judgment:

“Christ does not condemn judging as a magistrate, for that, when according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does he condemn our “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, for it is impossible ‘not’ to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every palliating [or disguised] circumstance, and a habit of ‘expressing’ such an opinion harshly and unnecessarily when formed. It rather refers to private judgment than ‘judicial,’ and perhaps primarily to the customs of the scribes and Pharisees.”

This fairness type of judgment is not a complex function of humans. For example, even toddlers can recognize when playmates are being fair or unfair when it comes to sharing toys.

However, where judgment becomes problematic is when it is no longer used as a tool of objective equity, but when it becomes a method of abusing our relationships with those who may not agree with us. We may be quick to pronounce judgment before understanding all of the facts of a particular situation, or we may be over-zealous to condemn a quality that we ourselves demonstrate on occasion, just as David did.

Once we have embedded our perception of a situation, or closed our mind to new data about what may have actually happened, we have shut off the potential for further interaction or possible reconciliation, and when that happens, condemnation typically results.


Now that we have detailed many different aspects of judgment and condemnation, let’s focus on the balance of forgiveness. By contrast, forgiveness is a quality that sits outside of judgment. When judgment is the primary objective, the possibility of forgiveness becomes diminished. When maintaining or restoring a relationship is a primary objective, then the potential for forgiveness increases. Both are necessary, but both serve different purposes.

Forgiveness is a more abstract quality that requires an increased level of maturity over just determining what’s right and wrong. There has to not only be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed, but another “something” beyond the understanding of that wrong or that perceived imbalance of equity, that is still willing to reach out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

Referring to Vincent’s Word Studies, the Greek word for forgive has another nuanced meaning.

“Lit., release. … Christ exhorts to the opposite of what he has just forbidden: “do not condemn, but release.”

When we forgive someone, we release them from condemnation; that’s what forgiveness is. The condemnation appears to us as a deserved punishment for some infraction. However, forgiveness provides a release; that person is now set free.

Additionally, a release is just as effective emotionally for us because now we no longer have to hold that infraction against that individual. Holding grudges consumes large amounts of emotional energy that can be better used in building positive relationships. When we are forgiving of others, we are not only setting an individual free from condemnation, we are also setting ourselves free from the emotional bondage created by our insistence on holding that condemnation over their heads.

Here’s an interesting perspective that you may not have considered when reading this passage in Luke 6. Following closely on the heels of this admonition to forgiveness, Yeshua then introduces the blessings of generosity.

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure ​– ​pressed down, shaken together, and running over ​– ​will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Rather than making this solely about giving of our resources to needy individuals (which is still an important and valid concept), if we keep the immediate context of judgment and forgiveness, we find that this concept of generosity actually applies to the topic at hand and connects forgiveness with generosity. When we forgive, we are being generous; generous with our mercy, generous with our emotions, and generous with our friendships. This generosity of action, according to Yeshua, leads to that generosity being returned to us many times over. When we are generous forgivers, forgiveness comes back to us over and over.

The Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary puts it this way:

this form of mercy is suggested by Matthew 7:2, [to] be giving, implying a constant habit, and therefore a generous nature.— good, generous measure; these words and those which follow apply to man’s giving as well as to the recompense with which the generous giver shall be rewarded.—pressed down, shaken, and overflowing…”

John Gill presents an interesting analysis of the cosmic retribution or balance that was evident among the Hebrew thinking of the day, and is also evident within specific patterns and stories presented in the Bible.

“And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. This was an usual proverb among the Jews; it is sometimes delivered out thus, “measure against measure”; but oftener thus and nearer the form of it here, “with what measure a man measures, they measure to him”: one might fill up almost a page, in referring to places, where it is used in this form:”

And he provides the following biblical examples:

“With what measure a man measures, they measure to him”; so the woman suspected of adultery, she adorned herself to commit sin, and God dishonoured her; she exposed herself to iniquity, God therefore stripped her naked; the same part of her body in which her sin begun, her punishment did.

Samson walked after his eyes, and therefore the Philistines plucked out his eyes.

Absalom was lifted up in his mind, with his hair, and therefore he was hanged by it; and because he lay with his father’s ten concubines, they therefore pierced him with ten lances; and because he stole away three hearts, the heart of his father, the heart of the sanhedrim, and the heart of Israel, therefore he was thrust with three darts: and so it is with respect to good things;

Miriam waited for Moses one hour, therefore the Israelites waited for her seven days in the wilderness;

Joseph, who was greater than his brethren, buried his father;

and Moses, who was the greatest among the Israelites took care of the bones of Joseph, and God himself buried Moses.”

This commentary and excerpts from Jewish writings demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of this principle recognized by Jewish writers throughout their history and their writings. All throughout God’s word we see this balance of righteousness being meted out. This principle applies in all situations, at all times.

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. If we are truly intent on keeping God’s word and honestly serving him in all things, then our hearts should be filled with love and forgiveness and it will in like fashion be returned to us, many times over, both from men and God. As we continually plant seeds of forgiveness through acts of mercy, we will find they will ultimately blossom into genuine and reciprocal 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 here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The true power of forgiveness

If you, O Lord, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you? But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored.

Psalm 130:3-4

Forgiveness is powerful.

God’s forgiveness has the ability to turn unrighteous indignation into praise and honor. It can break down the hard shell of resistant non-compliance into willing service. It can unshackle chains of fear and lack of self-worth when recognized by a penitent heart.

While the Psalmist brings this question before Yahweh, how similar its truth rings when applied to our own lives. If we do nothing but keep track of everyone’s sins against us, who can possibly stand before us? We will see nothing but hatred and disgust for those who have offended us in some way or not lived up to our own standards for them. In this mindset, we become critical, demanding and non-caring of the needs of others. We are blinded by our own unforgiveness of others.

However, when we are willing to forgive, we are viewed differently by others. Instead of fear or hatred there is honor as recognition of this forgiveness becomes known. Those who are willing to receive forgiveness understand they don’t deserve it, and that the one who is forgiving is granting them a relational privilege. This can build a sense of respect and honor. Where once there was hatred and fear there is now trust and security.

For those who do not receive forgiveness, they may scoff and turn away, only to spurn the privilege that has been offered to them. However, regardless of emotional reactions of others beyond our control, when we forgive we also release ourselves from the judgment and typically unfair criticism that can result from keeping track of the sins of others against us. They are free to choose their own path, and we are free to live in the harmony and reconciliation we have created in our own world.

Forgiveness is powerful.


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.

Dependent forgiveness

“So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.””

Matthew 18:35

In this parable of the unforgiving servant, we find a challenging passage that strains our modern understanding of our relationship with our heavenly Father. Yeshua describes how the forgiveness we receive from the Father is contingent on the forgiveness we provide to others.

In the parable, after being forgiven of his debts to his master, the servant is brought back before the master because he was not showing the same kindness to someone who was indebted to him. While many somehow extrapolate this passage into eternal torment for nonbelievers, the overall message of this teaching is instead explaining how, due to his unjust treatment of others, the one who was previously forgiven became accountable for those things for which he had previously been forgiven.

If we take this parable at its face value, stripping away the thousands of years of doctrinal excess that have been built upon ideas of justification by faith and eternal salvation, we arrive at a place in which Yeshua is teaching his followers that they are always accountable for how they treat others. To be forgiven by God is not a carte blanch status to claim some sort of favored status and then treat others any way of their own choosing.

In the same way, we must remember that we are always accountable to God for how we treat others in every aspect of our daily lives. Believers are not exempt from consequence. This should be a sobering reminder: God wants us to be good people who represent him accurately and fairly. And by conscious forgiveness with others, that is, sincere forgiveness from the heart (v. 35), only then do we show what his forgiveness looks like to the world. In so doing, we thereby maintain the privilege of forgiveness with the Father.


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.

Setting others free through forgiveness

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

Paul’s admonition to the Ephesian believers to forgive one another comes at the end of a long list of practices that would promote unity and brotherhood. Forgiveness encompasses a summary of other practices that all promote relational unity.

Most people are familiar with Yeshua’s charge to believers that forgiveness of oneself with God is dependent on our capacity to forgive others.

“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.

Matthew 6:14-15

Essentially, Yeshua is saying, “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” Paul appears to be saying the opposite: “You have been forgiven, therefore you should forgive.” Both maxims are true. For us to experience forgiveness from God, we must exhibit it ourselves. And when we have received forgiveness from God, we should therefore continue to extend it to others. Forgiveness, then, is the basis of all inter-personal relationships in the sight of God.

What I find interesting is in the passage where we typically read the words of Yeshua as “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven,” (Luke 6:37), a different Greek word for “forgive” is used than in most other places the word appears in the New Testament writings. In fact, this is the only place this form of the word is used.

The typical word translated as “forgive” is based on the root aphiemi which conveys the idea of a sending away. However, the word in Luke 6:37 is based on the root apoluo which focuses more on the action of release than the sending away. Both share nuanced meanings of dismissal or departing or leaving. However, terms based on apoluo are usually used of divorce, dissolving the bonds of marriage, a setting free of both partners.

Taken all together, these shades of meaning all provide pictures of the effects and responsibilities of forgiveness: it is to dismiss an offense that someone may have caused against us, to set them free from any perceived obligation we may be selfishly placing on them. We should be sending away those offenses, just as we have had our offenses released and sent away by God.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his loving kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:11-12

God’s interactions with ancient Israel reveal his heart for all believers even today. If we are to faithfully mimic our heavenly Father, then our forgiveness of others should be a release and dismissal that is equally as all-encompassing and final.

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.

Forgiveness and love can recreate the world

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

Luke 7:47

The mastery of Yeshua’s teaching was that he would use the opportunity of the moment to illustrate his points, what we might call today, “teachable moments.” In this brief passage in Luke 7:36-50, Yeshua teaches a man named Simon, a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner, about forgiveness and love. He does this by telling a parable about two debtors.

Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people–500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said.

Luke 7:41-43

In this simple parable, a beautiful picture emerges of the quantity of love that is typically shown for kind actions. When someone receives a kindness, they want to somehow repay it by doing something nice back. The greater the kindness shown to a person, the greater their sense of love and appreciation for their benefactor. Even from his Pharisaical background, Simon recognizes the universality of this truth.

Yeshua then applies this truth to the immediacy of the situation, as an anonymous woman who was known to be sinful was lavishing Yeshua with repentant tears and expensive perfume. While Simon had viewed this woman with critical judgment, Yeshua pointed out her loving actions were based on her recognition of her forgiveness. This accomplished two objectives: curbing Simon’s sense of criticism while also teaching about the universal human response to forgiveness.

Anyone reading this brief account can be struck by its simple and profound message as these are dual lessons that can immediately be personally applied. We should always reserve judgment of others without knowing their heart, and we should recognize just how closely forgiveness and love are tied together.

As believers, our lives should be bathed in love; this is because we have been forgiven of our offenses against a holy God. In like fashion, we should also be forgiving towards others, which generates more love as they then recognize and receive that forgiveness. If we truly lived lives of forgiveness, our lives would be the beacons of love that God desires, creating patterns of love and forgiveness that spiral off into other relationship circles.

Forgiveness is not cheap and always comes at a price, whether against our pride or sense of fairness or justice. But I believe it is a price worth paying if it results in more love in 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 here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Covering over offenses is required

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the primary word used for acts of forgiveness involves the word kephar. This word is typically translated as “atonement,” and generally conveys the idea of “a covering over.”

Yeshua encourages us to forgive so that we may be forgiven.

“”For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Matthew 6:14

When we truly and sincerely forgive others, we are in fact covering over whatever the offense against us was so that it can no longer be seen or recalled to mind. This canceling of the offense is what allows relationships to continue.

By contrast, when we do not forgive, whatever the offense was remains a visible obstacle between two individuals and impedes any fruitful relationship.

According to Yeshua, if we desire to have our offenses against God covered over and no longer remembered, then it is a requirement for us to do the same with those who have offended us. If we choose not to do so, then God is in no way obligated to forgive us our sins.

“But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:15

This is the type of personal accountability that is built into the message of the kingdom. Yeshua  explains that God is indeed a God of forgiveness, but only if we exhibit that same characteristic in our lives.

The children should act like the parents. In the same way, if we consider ourselves to be children of God, we should act like it.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit 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 trucker’s way of making peace

“How blessed are those who make peace, because it is they who will be called God’s children!

Matthew 5:9

Being a believer in Messiah carries many different challenges and exercises with which we are tested and tried every day. Yeshua desires his followers to be beacons of peace and forgiveness with those around them, so as to provide every opportunity for others to see the uniqueness of God, and us as his representatives in this world.

Being a peacemaker is one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging, of all aspects of the believer’s life. With all of the constant static and swirling, chaotic mass of right and wrong that confronts us in every interaction with others, Yeshua calls us to be messengers of peace. An illustration from driving in traffic may provide an analogy for us to consider.

Let’s assume that a three lane highway has a merging on-ramp with other cars that are seeking to join the main highway traffic. Where the ramp intersects with the freeway is the merging point of both lanes of traffic. Both lines of vehicles have come from different directions and yet are looking to become aligned into a single unified flow of traffic. In order to accomplish this, cars on the entrance ramp need to match their speed to that of the main highway in order to seamlessly merge in between the other cars. However, when traffic has slowed to a crawl, the merging happens less seamlessly, and tempers can flare when on-ramp vehicles begin forcing their way into the existing traffic on the main highway.

What I have noticed is that long-haul truckers that are involved in these types of congested traffic merges have adopted an interesting strategy. Because their rigs are less able to provide instantaneous stop-and-start accuracy with the cars around them, they typically choose to go at a very slow, but steady speed. This allows for large gaps in the traffic to form ahead of them, and the smaller cars around them have much more room to change lanes and join the flow of traffic on the main highway.

In effect, these truckers are acting like the “peacemakers” of the merge; their slow, constant speed provides additional room for cars to zip in and out of the lane ahead of them while they continue slowly and cautiously through the frenzy of lane changing and merging around them. This can be an analogy for us when we are considering our interactions with those in our lives.

If we look at the course of our day as the highway, then the people who come and go in our lives throughout our day are merging with us for a while and then exiting off our path or highway onto their other destinations. If we adopt the trucker strategy and allow them the additional “room” to merge and exit, we can find that our lives are much less stressful. We are not having to constantly hit the brakes or accelerate to accommodate their entrance and exits. We can still move toward our destination, albeit a little more slowly than we may have hoped, as we encounter this inevitable “traffic” in our journey each day.

This trucker strategy of giving people room is one of the most practical ways to keep peace.

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.

Choosing forgiveness and life over anger

Core of the Bible Podcast #21 – Choosing forgiveness and life over anger

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness can be a beacon of life that overcomes anger. But in order for us to understand about forgiveness overcoming anger, we will need to look a little closer at how the Bible represents anger in its various forms.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22

Believers should not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone. According to Yeshua, the damage caused by emotional outbursts of anger is equivalent to taking the life of an individual. Anger breeds an environment of death.

For example, this principle of anger breeding an environment of death is exemplified by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in the time of Daniel.

Daniel 2:10-12 The Chaldeans answered the king, “No one on earth can make known what the king requests. Consequently, no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked anything like this of any magician, medium, or Chaldean. “What the king is asking is so difficult that no one can make it known to him except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.” Because of this, the king became violently angry and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Proverbs 29:22 An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered one increases rebellion.

Have you ever known a hot-tempered individual to be considered a level-headed peacemaker? Of course not. Anger is not the way of building bridges between dissenting opinions, but a way of squashing all opposition, or in aggressively attempting to sway others to a particular point of view or call to action to harm others.

In an Old Testament instance of this, a robbery by some rogue Israelite tribal members caused a conflict. A man named Micah went shouting and chasing after some of the men of the tribe of Dan after the Danites had stolen some of his belongings.

Judges 18:23-25 [Micah’s men] were shouting as they caught up with them [the Danites]. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?” “What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?'” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!” The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.”

This is typically the result of short-tempered individuals; further damage and harm ensues.

Another consideration regarding angry words is that what is said is an unfiltered version of what is really in a person’s heart. According to Yeshua, the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

If we are harboring anger towards another individual in our heart, there is a fair likelihood that anger will be expressed, and not in a pretty fashion.

It is for these reasons that Yeshua equates anger with murder; the damage done can have long-lasting consequences that may not have been fully intended. Once that damage is done, trying to restore that relationship can seem as daunting as trying to resuscitate an individual who has been murdered by your words.

The good news is, God is in the life-giving business. To overcome the error of “killing” someone with our anger, Yeshua encourages the opposite to anger: forgiveness. Now I know that, at first blush, forgiveness may not sound like anger’s opposite; perhaps something like peace might be more fitting. But when you boil it down to essentials, peace is really based on forgiveness. Forgiveness can heal breaches in trust or the wounds of anger and resentment. Forgiveness is a creator of peace. Where anger breeds death, forgiveness breeds life.

Let’s look at some illustrations of this. When Joab tried to convince David to receive his son Absalom back whom he had banished, Joab creates a ruse with a woman to appear before the king and plead for his intent. In the speech that Joab provided her, she reveals a truth about the nature of God and forgiveness.

2 Samuel 14:14 For we must die, and are as water spilled on the ground, which can’t be gathered up again; neither does God take away life, but devises means, that he who is banished not be an outcast from him.

In this speech, the opposite of taking away life is forgiveness and restoration. This is the same principle that the apostle Paul uses in conveying the new life that believers have in Messiah, because God has forgiven us.

Colossians 2:13 And you being dead in the trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…

You see, if we were dead in our rebellious state, then God made us alive through forgiving us. Forgiveness breeds life, and our very forgiven status in the estimation of God proves it. If you have received forgiveness from God and are experiencing new life in Messiah, you should very clearly understand this principle.

Now, while all of this sounds very noble and worthy of our effort, we must also consider another aspect of anger that can be troubling if we haven’t previously considered it. What about instances when God is shown to have demonstrated anger? If God has gotten angry, why should he expect that we don’t get angry? Is he expecting that we have more emotional control than he does?

It’s a valid question and one that deserves a little further investigation. Here is an example, when Moses is arguing with God as to why he doesn’t feel that he is a good fit for this whole prophet thing that God is commanding him to do with Pharaoh.

Exodus 4:10-15 But Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the LORD became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do.

This is actually the first instance in the Bible where we see God getting angry, or at least the first representation of his anger. Here are some other examples to illustrate this further.

Numbers 11:1 The people were complaining in the ears of Yahweh. When Yahweh heard it, his anger burned; and Yahweh’s fire burned among them, and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

Numbers 11:4 The mixed multitude that was among them lusted exceedingly; and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now we have lost our appetite. There is nothing at all except this manna to look at.”… 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent; and Yahweh’s anger burned greatly; and Moses was displeased.

Numbers 12:1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 They said, “Has Yahweh indeed spoken only with Moses? Hasn’t he spoken also with us?” And Yahweh heard it. … 8 [Yahweh speaking] With him [Moses], I will speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in riddles; and he shall see Yahweh’s form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?” 9 Yahweh’s anger burned against them; and he departed.

Numbers 25:1 Israel stayed in Shittim; and the people began to play the prostitute with the daughters of Moab; 2 for they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. The people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Israel joined himself to Baal Peor, and Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel. 4 Yahweh said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up to Yahweh before the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahweh may turn away from Israel.”

Numbers 32:10 Yahweh’s anger burned in that day, and he swore, saying, 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me, 12 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, because they have followed Yahweh completely.’ 13 Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel, and he made them wander back and forth in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation who had done evil in Yahweh’s sight was consumed.

The language used in these passages reveals a few things. First, if we were to translate the phrase as it stands literally, it is a description of someone’s face becoming heated or burning to where their nostrils flare or they breathe heavily. Of course, this is a depiction of what we would call the emotion of anger. As this relates to God, it is as though the biblical writers are using the only words they have to describe the displeasure of God in these instances.

Does God have a face that actually gets hot, or nostrils that flare while he breathes heavily in frustration and anger? These would be what we would call anthropomorphisms: attributing human characteristics to God. This is simply because we, in our limited sense, cannot conceive of it in any other way, so we project onto God the characteristics we ourselves exhibit in similar situations.

Interestingly most of these occurrences are in the book of Numbers. So either the people were extra-rebellious or the writer of the book of Numbers chose to use that phrase repeatedly to express God’s displeasure.

Okay, but doesn’t the text still imply that God is getting angry? Of course, but we need to consider this: what is God getting angry about in each instance? Isn’t it basically disobedience to his revealed will?

Look at the examples again: Moses didn’t want to go to Pharaoh; the people were complaining about the provision of manna as a sole food source; Miriam and Aaron were rebelling against God’s choice of Moses; the people were submitting to idolatry instead of following God; the people rebelled against God’s plan to conquer the land of Canaan, etc.

God had every right to express anger because of disobedience to, or dissatisfaction with, his revealed will. This is a justifiable reason for his anger because, well, he is God, and his purpose and will is supreme.

In a similar way, when we get angry, it is typically because something isn’t happening according to our will; something isn’t going the way we want, or someone isn’t doing what we want them to do. However, the difference between our anger and God’s is that our understanding of a situation is limited by our own perceptions; God’s understanding is perfect and not limited in any way.

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When God is expressing anger at disobedience to his will he knows it is absolute and final because he knows all things about all people. When things don’t go our way, there may be a number of reasons why this is the case, and we can, and often do, easily assign the wrong motive or cause because of our limited perception. This causes us many times to be angry for the wrong reasons, whether due to emotional instability or incomplete information, but by then the damage is done.

This is why God has a right to command us to not get angry with others, not because we are supposed to somehow be more in control of our emotions than he is. It is simply because we are rarely angry for the correct reason, in the right amount, with the right individual. God’s perception and perspective is always perfect and justified. Our perceptions skew reality to our own misunderstandings of a particular situation. Anger is usually a demonstration of our own unfiltered, and typically unjustified, opinion. Therefore, God commands us to provide grace for the things we don’t know and for the situations we may not have full knowledge of.

For example, a popular story by Valerie Cox called The Cookie Thief illustrates this point rather well.

A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop. She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene. So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half. He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude! She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate. She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes. If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

For the woman in the story, her struggle was internal, and yet she still felt awful about her misconception over the whole incident. However, when we actually lash out at others, we reveal the weakness of our own character. Raw emotion can cause division because it is typically not based on the truth, but only on a perception of what one believes to be true. The reality of a situation may be significantly different.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.

Even though God may be completely justified in his anger, he still does not rush in emotionally frantic because someone disobeyed his will.  In proclaiming his character to Moses, he relates how his anger, although justifiable, is still not instantaneous:

Exodus 34:6 Yahweh passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh ​– Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

Even though Israel time after time rejected God and chose their own ways, God was slow to anger, as Nehemiah relates.

Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers behaved proudly, hardened their neck, didn’t listen to your commandments, 17 and refused to obey. They weren’t mindful of your wonders that you did among them, but hardened their neck, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage. But you are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and didn’t forsake them.

Numbers 14:18 “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.

God’s anger and his justice are tied at the hip. We saw this in all those passages in Numbers where God is described as being angry. The results of that anger were typically a measure of justice or discipline.

When the people complained about only having manna to eat, a fire burned in the outskirts of the camp, consuming them. When Miriam complained about God only speaking through Moses, she was disciplined with temporary leprosy. When the Israelites succumbed to idolatry, their leaders were hanged. When the people refused to take the land he had given them, he forced them to wander in the desert for forty years.

When he is meting out deserved punishment, his justice can appear as anger. But when the truth of a situation is known from his perspective, it can be recognized as being a natural outworking of consequences based on unfaithful actions.

If God, who knows all things about all people at all times, is considered slow to anger, should we not then also take even longer to become angry, knowing that we are extremely limited in our understanding of others and their motives? This is why Yeshua cautions us against judging others, because our standards are likely unjust, and God will then be justified in using our own standards against us.

If anger fosters death, then as we have seen, forgiveness fosters life. What anger kills, forgiveness resuscitates. Angry words designed to hurt are rendered powerless through the life generated by forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Meting out forgiveness seventy-seven times in one day is an obvious hyperbolic emphasis by Yeshua to illustrate that the stores of forgiveness available to us are bountiful enough to outlast and overcome any personal infraction.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,

Anger is a real emotion that conveys real intensity of thought and principle to bear in a situation. Anger itself is a creation of God. But the caution for us is if we are choosing to express anger, we are to do so without sin. That is a very fine line, and one that is not typically identified or heeded in a heated passionate outburst.

Even if we are justifiably angry, we are encouraged to resolve that conflict before the start of a new day. There should not be bitterness and unresolved conflict over days, weeks, months, or God forbid, years. I have seen that level of unrelenting anger in my own experiences growing up, and nothing good ever came of that level of unforgiveness and anger over past situations. If we are to be justifiably angry, it should not last longer than a day. Beyond that, we are entering into a realm of ongoing conflict, rebellion, and death.

Numbers 14:18 “Yahweh is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion.

If we are to mimic our heavenly Father in all things, then we should likewise be slow to anger, but abounding in faithful love and forgiveness. This is the root of life that can overcome the state of death present in our petty anger and hostility.

Life can always overcome death. Choose life.

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Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that when we express anger, we are treading in areas of potential death and destruction in the lives of others. Although we may feel justified, we are rarely angry at the right time, in the right amount, and with the right individual. Instead, we should choose to foster life and restoration through forgiveness. This is the true path to being the peacemaker that Yeshua enjoins us to be.