Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, especially in the context of speaking well of those who are haters because, according to Yeshua, the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart. Understanding who we have become in Messiah allows us the privilege of blessing all others.
Luke 6:28 – “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”
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, all of 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 certainly not a natural response to aggressive behavior, as we will typically be far more likely to respond in like kind toward any aggression or hurt we receive. However, this messianic type of well-speaking is a root sentiment that the apostles taught 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 two distinct aspects to this practice: 1) This is what believers have been called to do, and 2) God provides blessings for those who do. So, to bless others is not only to fulfill our calling that we have received from God, but it is also 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.
In regard to our calling, when we peruse the writings to find out what our calling as believers is, we can see that we have been called to join together with Messiah in the highest standards of freedom, peaceful unity, serving one another in love, and in endurance through suffering.
1 Corinthians 1:9 – “God is faithful; you were called by him into fellowship with his Son, Yeshua Messiah our Lord.”
Galatians 5:13-14 – “For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Ephesians 4:1, 4 – “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, … There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope at your calling …”
Colossians 3:14-15 – “Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.”
1 Peter 2:20-21 – “For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. For you were called to this, because Messiah also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
These various aspects are the true calling of all believers, and yet it does not appear that we all have come to understand these things very well. With all of the denominational divisiveness and inflammatory rhetoric we express towards each other at times, it seems unlikely that we are living up to our true calling in the eyes of Messiah. If we can’t even speak well with each other among ourselves, how can we be expected to speak well of those who are truly antagonistic towards us or toward the cause of Messiah and the Kingdom of God?
If, as Peter instructs, we are called to “pay back with blessing,” then we should understand this is an obligation we have, not an optional action of some kind. Most people understand that disagreements can quickly escalate into heightened conflict, and this comes primarily at the urging of inflamed emotional responses. However, we have been tasked with preventing the escalation from happening in the first place by not elevating tension; we should be removing the escalation through blessing of others, instead. Because a conflict is typically initiated when one party feels they have been wronged in some way, if they are to truly speak blessing into conflict, they must have a reserve of forgiveness that cannot be exhausted. When we can really and honestly forgive offenses from the heart, we can much more easily speak blessing into those environments. And since this is our calling, it must become the primary way we respond and communicate with each other and with others who would seek to discredit or harm us.
In a moment we will consider how this can be expected to be the calling of believers, even if the natural inclination of our hearts is to respond with equal or greater aggression. The apostle Paul addresses this very idea with the Corinthian congregation which will hopefully allow us to better understand our true status as believers in this world.
The real challenge we face in our calling is in not only speaking well of anyone who could be considered an adversary, but truly meaning it from the heart. This requires a type of ongoing forgiveness for the wrongs that any others may commit against us. And yet, for our blessing of others to be genuine it has to come from the heart.
Certainly, as we have seen, this is not a natural inclination. But as believers, we have to recognize that we are not just natural beings. The apostle Paul speaks of it this way:
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Paul makes the point that as believers we no longer are to view our life in this world as we have in the past. If we are living the born-again life from above, we have become part of the new creation, and everything is now new. We have new thought process which should drive new actions and new ways of doing things. We have new convictions and new purpose. Everything we see and touch should be driven from this new identity we have in Messiah. This means that we now have new hearts with new qualities and capacities, as well.
With this new calling and purpose, we can now receive the new blessings that come from God based on the righteous words and actions that flow from a renewed heart. The fruit of our way can now be blessed because our way has been renewed to mimic his own ways. We can now operate as God’s image in this world, managing and interacting with his creation in ways he has originally designed for us to do from the foundation of the world.
Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”
Yeshua instructs us that we are not to call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone because the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart. He teaches us that if what is in our heart is bitterness and unforgiveness, then that is what will come out of our mouth. However, if what is in our heart is real love and forgiveness as part of God’s new creation, then what comes out of our mouth will be genuine blessing for others.
This heart idea was not a new concept for those with a Hebraic understanding of the world. A millennium before Messiah, Solomon wrote of the importance of the heart condition in the well-being of the earnest believer in Yahweh.
Proverbs 4:23 – “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life.”
Keeping of the heart involves a recognition of its content and capacity. If, as believers in the new creation we understand our heart has been renewed, that is, fundamentally changed, we can begin to see how a requirement of forgiveness and blessing toward others can be an expectation that God has for us. Suddenly this lofty ambition does not seem so unattainable because God has now given us the ability to function with this unlimited capacity for forgiveness towards others. The wellspring of life now becomes “rivers of living water” that Yeshua promised for those who would believe in him.
John 7:38-39 – “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom thosCSe believing in Him would receive…
If we are part of God’s new creation, then his Spirit has changed the very make up of our hearts into a conduit for his very own love and mercy to be extended toward others. A river is a powerful metaphor, because a river flows from somewhere (God) and flows to somewhere (others). We are merely a conduit of this river which we can then direct towards all those we meet and interact with.
Following in the footsteps of Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, the apostle James illustrates it in this fashion:
James 3:8-12 – “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.”
When it is boiled down to essentials, the issue is really not our tongue, but the well-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 our spring, our river of the heart, is flowing from the Spirit of God with unlimited measures of real forgiveness. Then no wrongs can be too harsh, no hurt can be too severe. Our obligation to bless the haters becomes as natural as the air that we breathe within the rarefied atmosphere of the new creation. In this way, blessing and prayer for all others will become the living water flowing from our hearts.
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