Authentic forgiveness has the ability to influence others to do the same

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

Luke 23:34

One of the main reasons that Yeshua’s teachings have been so influential in the centuries and millennia is not just because of the wisdom, logic, and truth of what he taught, but because he actually demonstrated how to apply what he implored others to do.

As was the case in the instance of his crucifixion at the hands of his oppressors, he didn’t just preach forgiveness of enemies, he actually lived it out, praying for God to forgive those who had no intent toward him except extreme harm.

A message can have impact because it makes sense, or because it is an accepted tradition, or it may be a requirement of an institution or governing authority. However, the most impactful messages are those that are conveyed with consistency and authenticity by those who are presenting them.

By contrast, in our culture today, the opposite happens so frequently that there is the ironic statement expressed by the saying, ” Do what I say, not what I do.” This is the epitome of sad weakness in which one may have an understanding of what the right thing may be in a given situation, but they not have the strength or fortitude to carry out even their own advice. Hypocrisy is powerless.

But wisdom with consistent action makes a difference, especially with hard teachings like those about forgiveness. Anyone can say people should be forgiving of those who are intent on harm, but to do so in the most extreme of circumstances demonstrates authenticity that has power to change lives.

This is corroborated in the lives of his disciples, most visibly in the noble act of Stephen, when he faced the same type of hostility of those who would see him dead for his speaking of the truth.

Being called before the court to defend his beliefs, Stephen provides a protracted description of God’s favor with Israel, and then accuses the religious leaders of his day of forsaking everything they should have been practicing. In boldly speaking this truth, the situation then proceeded toward its inevitable conclusion.

[Stephen said,] “You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.” … When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him. … They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. … He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Acts 7:53-54, 57-58, 60

Stephen was so captivated with the powerful example of his Lord in forgiving his enemies that, thrust into a similar circumstance, he responded in the same way. His actions were consistent with his recognition of the truth related by his Master, and he was able to respond with the same level of demonstrable conviction. His righteous actions were so powerful they still influence and challenge us to this day.

Based on these demonstrations of genuine forgiveness of enemies by both Yeshua and Stephen, can we somehow find it within ourselves to forgive others with this same level of authenticity, even though we may not be faced with the extreme condition of impending death?

If this is the ultimate level of authenticity demanded of every disciple of Yeshua, then forgiving those who have wronged us in some minor detail seems much less daunting. In so doing, we have an opportunity to provide an authentic response that can influence others to do the same.

The quality of God that exemplifies his greatest strength

If You, O LORD, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.

Psalm 130:3-4

The deities of the ancient nations exhibited power through their strength and ruthlessness. They were cruel gods with weaknesses and foibles rivalling those of the most degenerate of human behavior. Yet Yahweh stands out among the ancient gods for his characteristic forgiveness.

You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long. Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, O Lord, are kind and forgiving, rich in loving devotion to all who call on You.

Psalm 86:2-5

The Psalmist writes, “But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.” The quality of God that most causes people to revere him is the fact that he is willing to forgive those who sincerely admit their failings.

Let the wicked man forsake his own way and the unrighteous man his own thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.

Isaiah 55:7

Considered in this light, this explains how God’s kingdom can expand to the entirety of earth. This is not a kingdom that is to be established by force or by might, but by love and forgiveness. Force and might may hold sway for temporary times and in limited areas, but it always gives way to the next sweep of power and might.

Forgiveness operates from a different base than forced subjection; it is a subtler but stronger might that captures the heart, and in so doing causes willing obedience and respect. It is not as visible and decisive as forced compliance, yet it spreads farther, reaches deeper, and lasts longer than any armed campaign could accomplish.

If our God is a God of forgiveness, and if we consider ourselves to be his children through faith, then should we not mimic the characteristic that would most demonstrate our likeness with our Father and bring honor to his name?

Relying on God’s strength to express forgiveness to our enemies

David asked Saul, “Why do you listen to rumors that I am trying to harm you? Today you saw how the LORD handed you over to me in the cave. Although I was told to kill you, I spared you, saying, ‘I will not raise my hand against Your Majesty because you are the LORD’s anointed.’ My master, look at this! The border of your robe is in my hand! Since I cut off the border of your robe and didn’t kill you, you should know and be able to see I mean no harm or rebellion. I haven’t sinned against you, but you are trying to ambush me in order to take my life. May the LORD decide between you and me. May the LORD take revenge on you for what you did to me. However, I will not lay a hand on you. It’s like people used to say long ago, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’ But I will not lay a hand on you.

1 Samuel 24:9-13

The story of Saul and David encompasses many facets of spiritual instruction within the lore of Israel. In this instance, David and his men are being pursued by a jealous Saul, then present King of Israel, because Saul thinks David is heading a rebellion to overthrow him. The pursuit comes to a climax when Saul unknowingly enters a cave into which David and his men are already hiding. David even gets close enough to cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

This incident highlights Yeshua’s teaching that we should not harm our enemies, paraphrased below.

Never retaliate; instead, offer to go above and beyond for those oppressing you.

Matthew 5:38-41

David could have been justified in taking vengeance on his enemy who was quite literally pursuing him to kill him. However, in our day and culture, those who may be adversarial to us are rarely out to physically kill us. They may speak badly about us in an unjustifiable way; they may actively try to work against our objectives; they may use us for their own personal ends; but they are rarely out to actually take our lives.

If David could be so forgiving and honorable in a justifiable situation with a sworn enemy when his life was in danger, shouldn’t that give us hope that we can, and should, have the ability to overcome the advances of our adversaries?

David mentions a saying that was prevalent in his culture and his time, “Wickedness comes from wicked people.” Yeshua substantiated that perspective even in his teachings, a millennium after the events of David took place:

“A good tree doesn’t produce rotten fruit, and a rotten tree doesn’t produce good fruit. Each tree is known by its fruit. You don’t pick figs from thorny plants or grapes from a thornbush. Good people do the good that is in them. But evil people do the evil that is in them. The things people say come from inside them.

Luke 6:43-45

Even though this may be the case, Yeshua also encourages us to take a very specific stance with those who may be displaying the wickedness that comes from inside of them:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to oppose an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn your other cheek to him as well. If someone wants to sue you in order to take your shirt, let him have your coat too. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you.

Matthew 5:38-42

If we are to be considered followers of Yeshua, then we need to abide by the principles he endorses, or rather, requires, of those who would claim to be his. These types of non-retaliatory actions require a very special form of forgiveness that can typically only be displayed as we rely on the Spirit of God providing us the strength to do so.

It is impossible to do what God’s standards demand because of the weakness our human nature has. But by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, God condemned sin in the flesh, in our corrupt nature. Therefore, we, who do not live by our corrupt nature but by our spiritual nature, are [now] able to meet God’s standards. Those who live by the corrupt nature have the corrupt nature’s attitude. But those who live by the spiritual nature have the spiritual nature’s attitude. The corrupt nature’s attitude leads to death. But the spiritual nature’s attitude leads to life and peace. This is so because the corrupt nature has a hostile attitude toward God. It refuses to place itself under the authority of God’s standards because it can’t. Those who are under the control of the corrupt nature can’t please God. But if God’s Spirit lives in you, you are under the control of your spiritual nature, not your corrupt nature.

Romans 8:3-9

As believers, God has provided us the resources needed to carry out his expectations that we overcome our adversaries through forgiveness and kind actions. It’s time for us to do so.

Why would we ever withhold forgiveness?

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

John 20:23

The context of this passage is the day of Yeshua’s resurrection, in the evening of that very day. The disciples were still trying to understand what had happened since their Teacher had been crucified a few days before. A strange report of Messiah’s appearance had come from Mary, and Peter and John had both been to the tomb and found it was empty.

Suddenly, Yeshua is among them all, proclaiming peace and wholeness (shalom), and providing an admonition to remain receptive to the holy Spirit of God and to exercise the privilege of forgiveness with others.

Most commentators view this as a special privilege, anointing, or commissioning of the twelve disciples (or, in this case, the ten disciples, since Thomas and Judas were not among them). However, there is no indication this admonition was just to Yeshua’s closest circle, but it was conveyed to all of those present.

The significance of this cannot be minimized: the first collective teaching Yeshua provides his followers after being resurrected is to remain receptive to God’s Spirit and to be mindful of how they exercise forgiveness, because to whomever forgiveness is not extended, then the state of unforgiveness remains.

In reality, this should not be surprising to us, since Messiah consistently taught of the importance of forgiving others, and how the believer’s use of forgiveness with others will be an indicator of God’s forgiveness with them.

Matthew 6:12, 14-15 – “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. … “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. “But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

Mark 11:25 – “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.”

Luke 17:4 – “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

If we can cautiously peel back the prejudice of our religious orthodoxy regarding the historical commentary of this passage and simply consider the Messiah’s words for what they say, the importance of forgiveness in the teaching of Yeshua cannot be understated.

If we are allowing the Spirit of God to guide our lives, then we need to always be mindful of how important the role of forgiveness plays in our interactions with others. For to whomever forgiveness is not extended, then a state of unforgiveness remains. And if we are to maintain a consistent view within the larger context of Yeshua’s teaching during his life and ministry, that state of unforgiveness can be measured against our own standing with God.

The fact that the operation of the Spirit and forgiveness are knit together so closely should cause us to evaluate how receptive we are to the influence of the God’s Spirit in our lives. A life guided by the Spirit is, by default, a life of forgiveness.

Peace and Forgiveness

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 7 – Peace and Forgiveness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness by looking at Yeshua’s admonition for believers to be peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9

I have paraphrased this verse as “Make peace; do peace, and you will be blessed, being recognized as a child of God.” It is our obligation as believers to be the vanguard of peace among the lives of those around us.

What’s interesting in this verse is the active nature of what is being expressed. Yeshua appears to be emphasizing the doing or the making of peace. By this reckoning, peace is not something that just happens; it involves work and effort to bring it about. That’s what we are discussing today; what is involved in bringing about peace in our lives and the lives of those around us?

So let’s explore the definition of peace, to find out what it is that we should be actively working towards in our relationships with others.

The word in the original Greek is eiréné (i-ray’-nay) meaning oneness, peace, quietness, rest. In usage it conveys peace, peace of mind. It is also the equivalent of the Hebrew shalom, an invocation of peace and a common Jewish farewell, in the Hebraic sense of the health (welfare) of an individual.

HELPS Word-studies focus on the wholeness aspect of this term as coming from a root word which means “to join, tie together into a whole”. It essentially conveys when all necessary parts are joined together there is peace (God’s gift of wholeness).

Through these definitions you can see that the biblical notion of peace brings so much more to the table than just attitudes of non-aggression; it has to do with a sense of wholeness and essential unity. Wholeness and unity can only come about when individuals are in agreement or have a common purpose or emotional bond. If this is the case, and if we are to be peacemakers, it is our responsibility as believers to bridge disagreements and work to bring others towards common purposes and feelings towards us and towards each other.

One aspect of being a peacemaker is to be reconciled to a family member or someone you are close to.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-34

This word for reconciliation carries the idea of changing or exchanging something for something else. It means to thoroughly experience change, such as where people in conflict come together through meaningful change. Enmity or disagreement has been exchanged for friendship.

Many times, disagreements between friends or family exist because no one wants to be the first one to budge from their position of perceiving they have been wronged by the other. But according to Yeshua, we as believers need to actively work towards these types of resolutions. It is our responsibility to initiate these exchanges; that’s what makers of peace do. So if we have unresolved conflict in our close relations, then it is upon us to to be the ones who begin to pave the way toward resolution of these conflicts.

However, if we continue to be caught up in dissent and factionism by pressing our righteous indignation at every offense, we are denying our heritage as makers of peace in the character and likeness of Messiah and his kingdom.

“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this [way] serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” –

Romans 14:17-19

When wrongs are committed between individuals, the faithful believer must look beyond the immediate injury to the larger objective of peace and unity. There is no denial a wrong has been committed, just a positive affirmation that is intentionally offered to overcome the sting of whatever injustice was perceived to have been incurred.

Sometimes our perceptions are incorrect, or we misunderstand someone, and we react to a perceived injustice. This is why we must exercise care. If we focus on peace rather than justifying our perceptions, we are saved from potentially creating an issue where there was no real threat to begin with.

Another aspect of being a peacemaker is in reconciliation with an adversary:

Reconcile quickly with your adversary, while you are still on the way to court.

Matthew 5:25

Your adversary can be anyone who is simply working at cross-purposes with you, or who could be actively working against you at every turn. In the example Yeshua provides, this adversary would be someone taking you to court over some legal issues. This adversarial behavior can be frustrating and can cause our emotions to run high, wanting to reflexively do them harm, or to avoid them at all cost so no interaction has to occur to continue to feed into your emotional distress.

And yet, Yeshua says we need to be the instigators of reconciliation; we need to be the ones who begin the process of trying to find common ground for the establishing of a stronger relationship.

The type of reconciliation mentioned in this verse about our adversaries is a form of being well-minded toward someone else, to think kindly of them or to be favorable toward them. Who wants to do that with an adversary? Wouldn’t we rather want to respond in kind by trying to see how much harm we could do them because they were escalating things in the legal court system?

That may be our initial emotional response, but it should not be our continuing motivational attitude toward that individual. We are commanded by Yeshua to initiate reconciliation, to look kindly toward those who might be trying to do us harm.

These are the types of peacemakers we are to be: to be coming together with those who are near to us through exchanging our enmity for friendship, to be well-minded towards our adversaries. Being a peacemaker involves all others we interact with.

Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:14-18

Notice how Paul says our responsibility is towards everyone. That word is a primary word meaning all people, every person, the whole of everyone we interact with.

This goal of peace is so much more than just joining hands and singing kumbaya around a campfire; this type of exchanging enmity for reconciliation or being well minded towards others involves a difficult and sometimes emotionally painful exercise of a typically latent faculty that we all possess: forgiveness. When it comes right down to it, forgiveness is the basis of all peace.

So let’s explore this idea of forgiveness as a driver of the making of peace a little further.

Forgiveness comes from the Greek word charizomai (khar-id’-zom-ahee) which means to show favor or kindness, to give freely. It’s root meaning comes from the word xaris (char’-is)  which is where we get our word for grace, that is, freely giving favor or to grant forgiveness or pardon. (xarízomai) literally means, “to willingly (“graciously”) bestow.

I think you can begin to get the idea of where this topic is heading.

Now, we love all of these definitions as we apply them to our relationship with God: he forgives us, extends his mercy when we don’t deserve it, there is nothing we can do to earn it, but it is freely given.

But when we look to others who may have wronged us, we are not necessarily as quick to apply those same principles towards them. Why not? Because forgiveness isn’t something that is a natural response; it has to be intentionally bestowed upon someone else. This takes effort, and in some respects doesn’t feel natural because it isn’t reflexive. It has to be thought about and not carelessly offered.

Additionally, forgiveness involves another quality that does not always come easily: humility. It takes a humble person to not take action in pressing their potential advantage over someone else. To be willing to concede a perceived wrong is generally thought of as a weakness, but in God’s eyes  this is a strength.

The saying is that we may have lost the battle but we win the war. Forgiveness and humility both give us an opportunity to step back from the immediate conflict and gain perspective on the overall relationship. From the larger perspective, “losing” a battle for the sake of maintaining the relationship has real value, even if it doesn’t seem like it at that time.  Forgiveness is full of hope because it looks to a future of reconciliation, even if it isn’t readily apparent in the moment.

Now, the caveat in all of this is that while we may do all of these things from the truest intent of our hearts, our overtures of reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness may still fall on deaf ears and hard hearts. Those we are attempting to exhibit peace with may still remain at odds with us.

I believe this is why it says in Romans 12:18, “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.”

The phrase literally says “if possible, out of you, with all men live at peace.”

This implies that “out of us” should always be coming overtures of peace, even if met with resistance. It also implies that it may not always be possible to be at peace, at least not at the present time, due to whatever else the other person may be dealing with. But that doesn’t mean that their emotional state won’t be changed at some future point. For this reason, we are commanded that our  stance should always be one of unending peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In short, we should always act in love.

If we are to be mimicking God and representing his character and values in this world, then we should adopt the stance of God towards us. He constantly continues to offer his reconciliation, forgiveness and peace, even in our most rebellious and hard-hearted times. Yeshua admonishes us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Perfection in this instance refers to a measure of completeness. When we are agitated toward others, we are in a sense incomplete, however, when we advocate for peace and reconciliation, we are pursuing wholeness and unity, and we ourselves become whole in the process.

We are to be the makers of peace, the doers of peace. When we do this faithfully, we will be considered the children of God, because we will be doing what he does with us.

Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground today that I hope provides you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Being a peacemaker can be hard work, and forgiveness does not come naturally or easily. But we need to keep in mind that forgiveness is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.

If you found today’s information helpful, you can view all other episodes of the podcast by clicking here.

The formula for eradicating evil

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. … You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:38, 43-44

Follow the example of your Father in heaven by loving your enemies; speak well of them, help them, and pray for their needs. Never retaliate; instead, offer to go above and beyond for those oppressing you.

This teaching of Yeshua is one of the most widely known yet least practiced of all of his precepts. This is because it is non-intuitive and frankly, difficult. It involves two aspects, both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

If someone is forcing you to do something against your will, double your response. By expending twice the effort in a positive manner than they demanded of you from a negative motivation, you will in essence be overcoming their evil intent with a double measure of good. Additionally, if you are inwardly motivated for their good by praying for them and their needs, you are removed from your reflexive, emotional response of like for like. You are now placing yourself in a frame of mind that becomes concerned for their welfare where you can truly learn of their needs and act with genuine intention.

The typical human response in relationships is to respond in kind to how we are treated by others. A nobler aspiration would be to treat all people with an equal measure of kindness. However, Yeshua calls us to the highest level of interaction: not just to be kind to all, but to expend twice the effort and concern over those who are least deserving of it. This is true love, and the formula for eradicating evil in the world.

It’s simple math: a negative number plus a positive number of equal value only amounts to zero. It takes a positive number of higher value to end with a positive result.

Forgiveness is a bridge to positive, loving responses. When we intentionally overlook a personal injustice, we are freed to be obedient to God’s command to double our loving actions. If we do not exercise forgiveness, we may attempt to be obedient, but our actions can become only hollow shadows with no real substance.

The motivation Yeshua provides us for practicing this kind of forgiveness and love is because when we do so, we are mimicking our heavenly Father. God doesn’t ask us to do anything he himself is unwilling to do. If he blesses the wicked with life and rain and abundance, it is not because they are deserving, but perhaps in their abundance they will recognize his blessing, turn from their ways, and honor him for it.

The apostle Paul calls this God’s “testimony of goodness.” When interacting with crowds in Iconium and Athens, he speaks about the nature of the true God, and he relates how God blesses them.

Yet He has not left Himself without testimony to His goodness: He gives you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 14:17

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Acts 17:26-27

If we are to represent God as his children, we should be doing what he does. Unfortunately, in our human quest for justice and fairness, we stumble over what we personally think is fair and right based on our limited perspective, but that is not our place. Yeshua encourages us to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Our intentional actions based on forgiveness and love, then, become our personal testimony of goodness. As a result, God is honored, and all evil intentions can be overcome with love.

The maturity of forgiveness

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.

Matthew 7:1-2

Don’t criticize others.

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

This is expressed more fully in the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke:

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

Forgiveness is a quality that sits outside of judgment. When judgment is the primary objective, the possibility of forgiveness becomes diminished. Both are necessary, but both serve different purposes.

Judgment provides a needed distinction between right and wrong. We rely on our judgment to ensure that fairness is being practiced or demonstrated. This is not a complex function. For example, even toddlers can recognize when playmates are being fair or unfair when it comes to sharing toys.

Forgiveness is a more complex quality that requires an increased level of maturity. There has to not only be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed, but another “something” beyond the understanding of that wrong that still reaches out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

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

Choosing life over anger

“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

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

Anger is also a demonstration of unfiltered, and typically unjustified, opinion because the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart.

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.

Luke 6:45

Additionally, when we 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.

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

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.

Matthew 18:21-22

This demonstrates that the stores of forgiveness available to us are bountiful enough to outlast and overcome any personal infraction. Life can always overcome death. Choose life.

The Requirement of Forgiveness

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:14-15

Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.

Forgiveness can be easy to receive but difficult to measure out to others. However, if you desire forgiveness for your offenses to God and others, you must be forgiving of those who have offended you. This is a requirement, not an option.

We learn the true value of forgiveness only through demonstrating forgiveness with others. It comes at a steep price to our own pride and our own internal righteousness. Yet without that price being paid, we are not eligible for the forgiveness that God provides.

God does not tolerate hypocrisy; we must exemplify the character of God with others in order to maintain a thriving relationship with him.

The way of God demands true humility and real sacrifice. Forgiveness embodies both of these qualities.

The Humility of Reconciliation

“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.”

Matthew 5:23-26

Reconciliation with all others must take place prior to worshiping God or seeking his forgiveness. This includes adversaries and anyone you know to be holding something against you.

God desires that we approach him without hypocrisy. The relationships we have are mirrors of our heart actions towards others. God is always looking for our hearts to be pure and consistent in all ways with everyone; this includes those who would maintain an adversarial position towards us.

God values reconciliation over proving our personal “rightness” in any situation. Forgiveness requires humility.