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.

It’s time to grow up and act our true spiritual age

But you must always act like your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:48

When reading Matthew 5 in almost any English version of the Bible, this verse reads something like: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word that is typically translated as perfect is the Greek word teleios which carries some of the following definitions:

  • (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age,
  • mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, i.e. developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process
  • complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); completeness — of full age

But I like how the Christian Standard Bible quoted above states it: “you must always act like your Father in heaven.” While not a literal translation of the original text, I think it conveys the force of the intended meaning. Believers must always act like their Father in heaven.

The context of this saying is, of course, in the depths of the Sermon on the Mount, and Yeshua had just related that believers must love and forgive their enemies in the same way that the Father loves those who would be adversarial to him. This is the way we demonstrate we are his children: when we actually act like him.

Children carry the genetic and behavioral aspects of their parents into their worlds as they live and grow. If we are to be considered the children of God, then we should carry his genetic aspects (through being “born from above”) and his behavioral aspects (from learning his culture from his people through his Word) into our world. Since God is a god who loves, so should we. Since God is a god who forgives, so should we. Since God is a god who is fully complete and unchanging, we should be also.

This is the admonition of Yeshua here: that we should be complete, fully mature, demonstrating this spiritual maturity with those around us. We have all the tools we need, his Spirit and Word, to accomplish this.

The apostle Paul chastises the Corinthian believers for their lack of maturity.

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

The writer of Hebrews also laments the immaturity of his audience.

There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

Hebrews 5:11-14

“Solid food is for the mature,” the teleion, those who through constant use and training (like a gymnast) have their sense and judgment honed to know and do what’s right.

It’s past time for us to stop playing at spiritual things and to mature into truly living them out. We need to be responsible children of God who honor his name by doing the things he does, forgiving and loving as does.

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.

Following the example of Yeshua by speaking well of those who would cause us harm

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what you have been called to do, that you should inherit blessing.

1 Peter 3:9 

If everyone in the world followed this one teaching, we would essentially have an end to all strife. However, we have this admonition because there are always people who are evil and insulting to others.

Evil is such a bitter and condemning word. But the underlying Greek definition for this word is not any kinder: “inner malice flowing out of a morally-rotten character.” We can never surmise why someone acts in the evil way they do, whether it is due to their upbringing, their situations in life, or the decisions they have made along the way. Perhaps it’s a combination of some or all of those things.

Peter doesn’t make a distinction in specific types of evil, an there is no way for us to know someone’s motivation. We are taught only to not respond in the same way with the same type of evil.

As for the insults one might receive, one of the English definitions for the Greek word used here for insult reads, “using mean-spirited, insulting words to demoralize or humiliate.”  Sounds like any comment feed or live chat online. More than that, in real life we also encounter individuals like this in all aspects of our lives. Some are strangers in stores, some are friends who have been offended, and some are family members.

The point is: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you think they were born evil and insulting or if they were somehow negatively influenced by their surroundings and environments, or if they are strangers, acquaintances or family members. As disciples of Yeshua we are commanded to respond with blessing, that is, speaking well of all others at all times. This will likely involve large measures of forgiveness as a method of overlooking the offense or injury.

Peter teaches us to follow the example of our Lord, the Messiah.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. … He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

1 Peter 2:21, 23 

While this may be a revolutionary concept to our ears today, it was not new within the instruction of God. This has always been a principle of God’s torah, or his instruction, quoted by Peter here in his teaching. If we heed its injunction, then we are eligible for its promise: deliverance out of the injustice, a deliverance which comes from Yahweh.

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. … Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psalm 34:13-14, 19 

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.

A refusal to forgive others can result in the discipline and training of God

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, in the same manner you should forgive others.

Colossians 3:13

Paul was encouraging the believers to overlook the offenses of others based on the fact that God had forgiven them of their faults. This principle of reciprocity is stated in many places.

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

If the believers were enjoying the favor of God, then their peers should have been enjoying their favor. One cannot be truly forgiven without that same forgiveness being evident in their life toward others.

This reciprocity sounds all well and good until we realize that Yeshua also taught its opposite.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:14-15

A refusal to forgive others engenders a type of spiritual hostility, not only with others, but with God. God is just, and desires us to be equitable. Why? Because he is. If we are to be considered his children, then we should carry his characteristics in this world. If we have been forgiven, we should forgive others.

However, if we choose to hold on to animosity, jealousy, and selfish ambition instead of releasing it through forgiveness, then God is not obligated to forgive us of our faults. We are acting like stubborn children who then will likely require discipline to understand the error of our way. We may encounter hardship or trial due to our unwillingness to forgive others, not because God is vindictive, but because he is trying to guide our feet in the right way.

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Hebrews 12:5-11

When we can let go of our pride and stubbornness in our relationships with others, then God will restore his favor upon us in response to our willingness to be obedient.

Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins.

Isaiah 38:16-17

The choice is ours: we can choose to forgive or we can endure God’s discipline, as he trains his children further in his ways.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

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.

Forgiveness always comes at a cost to someone

The book of Leviticus is the heart of the “law of Moses,” the torah, or instruction that Moses provided to Israel. In it is outlined much of the ritual that defined the ancient Israelite worship of God. To our modern Western mind, some of the practices appear to make no practical sense, such as specific types of offerings that God expected his people to provide.

However, if one looks more closely at chapters 4-6, a pattern emerges that has significance even for us today. Amidst all of the rules and regulations, we can see that God desires to forgive his people when they have strayed from right paths.

Leviticus 4:26, 31 Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the LORD, and he will be forgiven. … Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the LORD, and they will be forgiven.

Leviticus 5:6, 10 This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the LORD. … Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the LORD, and you will be forgiven.

Leviticus 6:7 Through this process, the priest will purify you before the LORD, making you right with him, and you will be forgiven for any of these sins you have committed.”

All of these instructions point to one thing: God desired for the people to be reconciled with him, otherwise, why would he spend so much time describing how they were to go about making that happen?

An often-overlooked aspect of this process of forgiveness is the cost that the individual had to incur when bringing a sacrifice. Bulls, goats, rams, sheep, birds; all of these were costly offerings for sin that had to be brought to the priest in order for God’s forgiveness to be granted.

This highlights an important principle: when forgiveness is granted, it always costs somebody something; it is never free.

There was nothing inherent in the animal itself that somehow provided this forgiveness. This is even brought out in the New Testament writings.

For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:4

No, it was the value of the sacrifice that demonstrated the sincerity of the giver. The offerer had to demonstrate true intent (that is, repentance). Among other things (like the identity substitution), the giving of a perfectly good animal that could provide much personal benefit to the offerer was a way of showing they were sincere in asking for forgiveness.

The bringing of the animals to the priest was not for blood debts to be repaid, and God certainly didn’t need the animals for himself. But through this process, he was teaching the Israelites that there is a value to be exchanged for a renewed relationship with God.

Forgiveness always positively changes a relationship, but it always comes at a cost. This is why it is even still a custom today to bring a gift to someone when apologizing for some sort of relationship transgression. The thoughtfulness or value of the gift demonstrates the sincerity of the giver.

We are commanded by Yeshua to forgive others and to love our enemies when they don’t deserve it or when they are not demonstrating sacrificial repentance. Even if we are approached multiple times a day by the same individual, we are to forgive them. When these types of passages are discussed today, what is rarely mentioned is the cost that this forgiveness exacts from us. If the individual asking for forgiveness is not providing some sort of sacrificial benefit on their behalf, then the one who is absorbing or carrying the cost of the forgiveness is you.

This is why the act of forgiveness is so unique among God’s people today. Forgiveness that is freely offered is not cheap, it still comes at a great expense. It is a sacrificial lifestyle with real cost to the believer in every relationship. But the sacrificial obedience that God demands of us provides for positive relationships in all areas of life and honors him by demonstrating we have learned the true value of forgiveness.

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.

Isaiah’s outline of the steps to forgiveness

Let wicked people abandon their ways. Let evil people abandon their thoughts. Let them return to the LORD, and he will show compassion to them. Let them return to our God, because he will freely forgive them.

Isaiah 55:7

People have a need to be forgiven. Whether it’s from wrongs they have committed with other individuals or whether it’s for seemingly irreconcilable errors committed in life, humans will typically reach a point within their lives where forgiveness becomes a real need. It may not be something obvious to others or sometimes even themselves, but the need exists and persists until a crisis point is reached. Once that happens, something must be done to meet this need.

In the passage today, Isaiah outlines three things necessary to accomplish this with God when we feel our life has drifted from its moorings.

First, we must abandon our wicked ways that are contrary to his efforts. The cycles and patterns of destructive behavior have to be changed with a commitment to move beyond them.

This can be accomplished through the second aspect of abandoning our evil thoughts. This is not an injunction to mindless obedience, but a directive to change our habits of thinking that are keeping us trapped in the loop of non-productive or harmful behaviors. Nothing changes until our thought patterns are revised.

The third aspect is what Isaiah describes as returning to God. While this admonition was originally spoken to those in Israel who were familiar with God but had rejected him, the same encouragement exists for us who are seeking for a measure of spiritual peace that comes from the Creator of all things. Isaiah confirms this in the context of this passage when he writes:

Open your ears, and come to me! Listen so that you may live! I will make an everlasting promise to you- the blessings I promised to David. I made him a witness to people, a leader and a commander for people. You will summon a nation that you don’t know, and a nation that doesn’t know you will run to you because of the LORD your God, because of the Holy One of Israel. He has honored you.

Isaiah 55:3-5

Isaiah alludes to the fact that foreign nations would be drawn to the God of Israel because of the example of God’s faithfulness with David, and with his people. What was future to Isaiah is the present age we are living in. Because of the faithfulness of David’s “son,” Yeshua the Messiah, we have the ability, through faith in him, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we realize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes.

…he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God.

John 1:12-13

Seek the LORD while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.

Isaiah 55:6

He is near even today and able to accept and forgive all who come to him with sincere motives and a willingness to abandon their past ways and past thinking. That need for forgiveness can be met today.

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 reconciliation can only stem from a renewed heart

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45

I knew a man who was recently honored at his work for being an outstanding performer, always receiving gracious comments from customers with whom he interacted on a regular basis. He even received national recognition and many accolades for his achievements. However, when a particular crisis arose and he was challenged by his boss with a sharp disagreement over his mishandling of a particular situation, what began as a discussion of strategy degraded into a string of profanity and lashing out, blaming a customer for his own inability to bring a situation to its proper conclusion. This indignation, it would seem, was always simmering and bubbling under the surface of the polished outward appearance of his performance. When a situation challenged his work, what was truly in his heart boiled over and out of his mouth, revealing the true nature of his character.

Yeshua calls this the “fruit of the tree.” The wider context of our verse today demonstrates this idea.

For there is no good tree that brings forth rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that brings forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:43-45

If, as Yeshua teaches, “each tree is known by its own fruit,” then we can ascertain very quickly what is in a person’s heart by what they say and how they say it.

The same can be said of us. The words we speak illustrate or reveal what is actually in our hearts.

If we are to be speaking and demonstrating forgiveness and reconciliation with others, then that forgiveness and reconciliation will truly need to be in our heart. This can only be accomplished when we step out of the way of our old natures and allow God to work through our renewed nature in those situations.

Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

If, as Paul writes, we are new creations, then we need to operate within the new Creation of God’s kingdom, and live and abide by its principles, not the principles of this old Creation. Both Yeshua and Paul convey that the principle of reconciliation and forgiveness is a core principle of God’s kingdom. If our hearts have been renewed, then that forgiveness and reconciliation can truly reside in our new hearts.

Our ability to speak this forgiveness and reconciliation to those around us appears to be a choice that we have every day, but only when we recognize and remember who we really are. It is in this fashion that God is honored among the nations when his children are operating with the righteousness of his kingdom regardless of the outward situations and conditions they encounter. When the abundance of the heart is good treasure, then that good treasure can’t help but be shared with those who need it most.

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.

Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Practical Kindness

Core of the Bible podcast #14 – Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Practical Kindness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of Forgiveness, some practical ways to demonstrate forgiveness, and the humility and kindness required when we concede to overlook the faults and aggression of others.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive people, neither will your Father forgive your wrongdoing.

The overarching theme where this verse is tucked into the Sermon on the Mount is all about avoiding hypocrisy. Don’t expect something of someone else (including God) if you are not willing to subject yourself to the same principles. If you expect to have God forgive you when you have wronged him, then you should be forgiving of those around you who have wronged you.

But what does this type of forgiveness of other people look like? How can it be enacted in practical ways? Yeshua provides a couple of examples that include a brother who has an offense against you, and an adversary who is taking you to court.

Matthew 5:23-26 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”

From this insight, Yeshua is teaching us that a primary aspect of forgiveness looks a lot like reconciliation. By this standard, reconciliation with all others must take place prior to worshiping God or seeking his forgiveness. Seeing how these two concepts are tied together so closely, we can therefore say forgiveness is the root and foundation of all reconciliation. This is a requirement if we are to be asking God for forgiveness.

Additionally, there are two distinctive aspects of reconciliation that Yeshua brings to our attention here: reconciliation with a brother and reconciliation with an opponent. Let’s take a closer look at both of these distinctions in more detail.

When we are talking about reconciliation with our brothers, most of us are likely familiar with another famous passage that Yeshua teaches about forgiveness which involves some math: seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a brother who wrongs me? Seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.

Okay, now on a technical note, the phrase seventy times seven could also mean seventy-seven times. But I think it can be shown that whether seventy-seven or four hundred and ninety times, Yeshua is speaking in a figure of speech known as hyperbole. He is clearly exaggerating for the sake of emphasis, but it’s an exaggerated emphasis worth making.

The point is that no matter how many times someone offends us or does something wrong by us, we, as believers, as followers of Messiah, are obligated to forgive them. This is not an option for those claiming to be in the kingdom of God. This is a hard teaching which is why it is not practiced as much as it could or should be.

By contrast, if someone is not a believer, they are not likely to pay any attention to this concept, and simply respond in kind when someone offends them. They will lash out, hold a grudge, seek retaliation, or basically do anything that does not require them to concede their position or their pride. Yet, as believers, forgiveness of those who have offended us is a non-negotiable directive of Yeshua that must be adhered to.

For many years when I considered this passage, I had the idea that I would only have to forgive someone if they came to me and asked for forgiveness. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have to consider actively forgiving them. However, as I’ve grown, I’ve learned that we must take all of Yeshua’s teaching into account if we are to be his followers. In his teaching, there is no room for that kind of petty distinction. Our verse for study today rules out that option when it says:

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Notice it says when YOU remember that your brother has something against you, you would be obligated to drop what you were doing, even if you were in the process of offering a sacrifice at the temple. That conveys two things: firstly, an obligation for reconciliation, and secondly, a sense of urgency in resolving conflict with all others at all times.

Additionally, there’s a third aspect that I touched on a few moments ago: there is no point in conducting acts of worship if we have unresolved conflict with others. From God’s perspective, this a kind of hypocritical schizophrenia that is not welcome in his kingdom. Time and time again throughout his teachings, Yeshua and his followers emphasize how deeply religious hypocrisy is hated by God. Look at some of these examples.

Matthew 23:28 – “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Luke 12:1 – He began saying to His disciples first [of all,] “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

1 Peter 2:1 – So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.

James 3:17 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Maybe you hadn’t realized it, but unresolved conflict in your life while claiming you are a child of God is hypocrisy, and God is not honored by that type of dichotomy.

Now that I’ve stabbed you with that truth, allow me to twist the knife further by saying that this type of forgiveness is not only a requirement for our brothers and those close to us, but is also a requirement for those who may be adversarial to us, as well. So if you think it’s hard to forgive a brother, how much more do you think we need to rely on God’s strength to forgive an enemy?


While we might be able to comprehend how forgiveness of those closest to us is essential, we tend to bristle at the suggestion that those who can be considered our enemies or our adversaries are also to be recipients of the same level of forgiveness from us.

At the root of this reconciliation and forgiveness is a characteristic that perhaps we had not considered: respect. When we forgive and give people the benefit of any doubt, we are essentially respecting their perspective and their known or unknown motives, and we are responding with kindness rather than vindictiveness. From a practical standpoint, I freely admit this is one of the most difficult of all biblical principles to put into practice.

If we actually do this with others, won’t this open us up to be taken advantage of? Very possibly, yes. Some people will see that we are not offering any resistance and will walk all over us. However, if we truly enact active kindness and not just mute submission, what is more likely to happen is something that we are taught from the torah, or instruction of God, when we are kind to our enemies:

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.

The apostle Paul echoes this same sentiment when he writes:

Romans 12:17-21 – Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

By being good to those who are opposing us, we are going against those natural instincts to retaliate. It is an unexpected response, and can cause them to recognize that they were acting foolishly. The metaphor of the burning coals being heaped on their head is a challenging one, but one that is meant to illustrate how recognized truth can be painful because it involves a recognition of one’s own wrongdoing. It typically takes something unusual to happen in order to shake us out of our destructive habits. When someone is nice to another person who has been only angry and mean with them is certainly one way to make that person sit up and take notice.

I’m sure almost everyone could share a story about someone who was sincerely nice to someone who was mean to them, and the person was won over to friendship, or at least, to stop the oppressive behavior. There is no guarantee that will happen, but it does happen. And regardless of the outcome, it is our biblical obligation to do so.

Yeshua makes another point about the necessity of reconciling with our adversaries:

Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

Reconciliation even in legal matters is a best practice that we are admonished by Yeshua to demonstrate. We can recognize that when things have become legal battles, that communication, trust, and forgiveness have broken down. Yeshua instructs us to get ahead of this type of entanglement by agreeing with, or making friends with our opponents. The word here can be vague in English; it implies a “giving of oneself wholly.” To my way of thinking, if you are giving yourself wholly to your opponent, then you are essentially conceding the dispute, and you are choosing rather to bear the injustice.

This is a difficult position to maintain, but it is a precedent that Paul has set among believers who disagree:

1 Corinthians 6:6-7 – But instead, one believer sues another–right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?

What?! Let yourselves be cheated? Paul obviously is out of touch with our current societal standards of personal rights. Or is it rather that our current societal standards are out of touch with the perfection of God’s ideal?

While Paul is admonishing this practice among believers, Yeshua seems to be implying that we should activate this same practice indiscriminately with everyone, even an adversary who would take you to court. We have to remember that in Yeshua’s day, any type of legal court was essentially held at the whim of the judge. You could have an airtight case and still end up having the ruling go against you. Then what would be the result? You would be innocent, you would have stated your case, but you would still be in prison.

Yeshua’s admonition for reconciliation, or “settling out of court” is a safeguard and a protection for the early believers. If they practiced this, it would potentially protect them from an unjust verdict. There was no guarantee that a trial would be fair, and if they were to pursue their rights, they were putting themselves in jeopardy of imprisonment. It would go better for them if they settled or reconciled out of court. They would avoid a potential further injustice, and be demonstrating a measure of love and forgiveness toward an adversary that could potentially change their heart, as well.

Matthew 5:44-47 – But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

As Yeshua also teaches here, by exhibiting kindness to our adversaries, we are providing them something they need, just like our Father provides sunlight and nourishing rain to all, because he knows these are basic needs, and especially so in an agrarian society. When we act the same way, we are responding as our Father would want us to respond. We are then allowing any legitimate vengeance or retaliation to come from him and him alone, since only he knows the hearts and true motives of all. Most of the time, we may also discover that no vengeance or retaliation is necessary, simply because we didn’t possess all of the facts at the time. This includes adversaries and anyone we may know to be holding something against us.

God values reconciliation over proving our personal “rightness” in any situation. Forgiveness requires humility, humility with our brothers and sisters and humility with our adversaries. Our strength in this area can easily be perceived as foolishness and weakness by the rest of the world, but if that’s the case, we are in good Company:

1 Corinthians 1:25, 27-28 – This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. … Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

The relationships we have are mirrors of our heart actions towards others. People will typically be to us what we are to them, and vice versa. So when we take Yeshua’s command to heart and break the cycle of mirroring behaviors, we have an opportunity to create new relationships, and these relationships can bear fruit for God.

Remember, God desires that we approach him without hypocrisy. God is always looking for our hearts to be pure and consistent in all ways with everyone; this includes those close to us and those who would maintain an adversarial position towards us. When we demonstrate humility and forgiveness with all others, we are taking a positive stance in a negative situation in which God has an opportunity to work and be glorified. Because then we are truly behaving like his children, and reaching out to the unreceptive, just like he does.


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 if we are to truly overlook the faults of others, we need a measure of humility and understanding because we don’t know everyone’s motives. One of the clearest ways we can respect others is to forgive them when they have wronged us. Let’s keep our focus on reconciliation with all others in which God is glorified, because then we are mirroring his actions to an unreceptive world.

Be sure to visit coreofthebible.org to join the conversation through comments, to see daily blog posts on these topics, and to find free downloadable resources regarding the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form.

Have questions about todays topic, or comments or insights you would like to share? Perhaps you have found this podcast helpful or encouraging. If so, I would love to hear from you and include listener comments in future episodes, so feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Thanks for your interest in listening today. As always, I hope to be invited back into your headphones in another episode to come. Take care!

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.

The daily requirement of blessing all others, even (or, especially) those who hate you

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.

Luke 6:28

Our words are important, and in this day of instant and voluminous communication, there are numberless words spent daily in the vast sea of our digital culture. Not all of that communication is helpful, and much of it is downright hurtful. However, as believers, our words should be a blessing to others.

The definition of the word that we translate as blessing means to “speak well of,” to “praise” or to “wish for the prosperity of.” It is the same word that we get our English word eulogy: an example of speaking well of someone who has recently died, or delivering a benediction of well-wishing upon a person or group of people. To bless others is to speak well of them and wish them prosperity and wholeness.

This seems simple and natural among friends and family, but we are commanded by Yeshua to have this same level of concern and care for those outside of our common circle, and in fact, with those who would seek to do us harm. In the verse above, he commands us to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who would seek to hurt us.

This is a root sentiment among the early believers, as well:

Romans 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.

1 Peter 3:9 – Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.

I find it interesting that Peter attaches a reward to this practice: God will bless you for it. To bless others is to receive a blessing from God in return. If we feel that we are outside of God’s blessing at times, perhaps it is because this required practice is lacking in our lives.

The real challenge is in not only speaking well of our adversaries, but truly meaning it from the heart. This requires a type of ongoing forgiveness for the wrongs that others may commit against us. And yet, for our blessing of others to be genuine it has to come from the heart.

Certainly, this is not a natural inclination, but, as believers, we are not just natural beings.

The apostle Paul speaks of it this way:

Therefore, if anyone [is] in Messiah, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Yeshua instructs us that we are not to call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone, and that the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart. If what is in your heart is bitterness and unforgiveness, then that is what will come out of your mouth. However, if what is in your heart is real love and forgiveness as part of God’s new creation, then what comes out of your mouth will be genuine blessing for others.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Following in the footsteps of Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, the apostle James illustrates it in this fashion:

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

James 3:8-12

When it boiled down to essentials, the issue is really not our tongue, but the spring of our heart. If the spring is fresh water, then the tongue will yield fresh water for others. If, in obedience to Yeshua, we are to truly bless those who work against us at all times, then we need to ensure that rooted in the depths of our heart is an ongoing measure of real forgiveness. Then no wrongs can be too harsh, no hurt can be too severe. Blessing and prayer for all others will become the living water flowing from our hearts.

We have an obligation to forgive others

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Colossians 3:13

Paul is here reminding the Colossian believers of an obligation they have to forgive anyone who offends them. The verse speaks in a literal sense of those who have complaints or blame to assign to another. In my experience, there will always be blame to assign to someone, and there will always be complaints about others. The justification Paul gives for overcoming this blame and complaining attitude of others is because God forgave them.

We have been in this same condition before God, and yet he was willing to overlook our faults and still call us to himself. Like our natural parents Adam and Eve, we looked for excuses as to why we did not obey God, and we have been quick to assign blame to another:

“Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

Genesis 3:11-13

In our natural state prior to coming to faith in Messiah, if you’ll pardon the expression, the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. And yet, even in our new relationship with God, as we seek to grow the “new man” within us, sometimes those old tendencies rear their head and cause us to stumble. We then can fall prey to a measure of hypocrisy, something hated by all and cautioned against by Messiah:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:14-15

The English version of Colossians 3:13 above says because “the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” A literal rendering of this admonition would be “in the same manner or to the same degree that God has forgiven you, you should do in like fashion to others.”

How much has God forgiven you for? When we realize the depth of that forgiveness, it should reveal our ability, and our obligation, to forgive others in a new light.