Authentic forgiveness influences others to do the same

The most impactful messages are backed up by the actions of those who are presenting them.

Core of the Bible podcast #70 – Authentic forgiveness influences others to do the same

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how the most impactful and influential examples are made by the consistency and authenticity of those who are living them out.

Luke 23:34 – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

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 of instruction 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, and backed up by the actions of 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 do 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 Yeshua’s 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. When he was called before the religious high court to defend his beliefs, Stephen provides a protracted description of God’s favor with Israel, and then abruptly 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.

Acts 7:53-54, 57-58, 60 – [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.

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.

In contrast, Yeshua provides an opposite example in stark relief against the nobility of Stephen’s type of forgiving actions. At one point when his disciples were asking him questions, he had responded to Peter’s question about how many times believers are expected to forgive. Yeshua’s answer was couched in a story, a parable, about what this looks like from God’s perspective.

Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven. “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. “When he began to settle accounts, one who owed ten thousand talents was brought before him. “Since he did not have the money to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. “At this, the servant fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything.’ “Then the master of that servant had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan. “That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe! ‘ “At this, his fellow servant fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he wasn’t willing. Instead, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. “When the other servants saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. “Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ‘ “And because he was angry, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

This parable is so comprehensive and compelling that it leaves little room for any comment. Yeshua sets a clear indication of God’s desire for his people to be people of forgiveness based on on their own recognition of how much they have been forgiven. The apostle Paul carries this forward to the believers in Colosse, as well.

Colossians 3:12-13 – “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”

Our ability to forgive should not be based solely on an emotional feeling of sadness or pity toward someone else. There may be times where our emotions are running completely opposite to empathy or pity, and yet, we are commanded to forgive anyway, if for no other reason than we have been forgiven by God. That is the standard that should guide us.

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


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Reconciliation in the new creation

Only when we die to ourselves can God then work through us.

Only when we die to ourselves can God then work through us.

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 – That is, in Messiah, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Messiah, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Messiah’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.”

This description that Paul gives of his ministry has been debated over the years as to whether this ministry of reconciliation applied only to the apostles, or if this is a quality that all believers should demonstrate. I believe the context of the passage provides an insight into how this principle should be applied.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 – Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Messiah and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

Paul states if anyone is in Messiah, they are part of the new creation. Therefore, anyone who has been reconciled to God through Messiah has been given us the responsibility of helping to reconcile the world to God through themselves. Certainly, the apostles were the greatest and initial examples of this, as it was necessary for God to first to reconcile all of the scattered tribes of Israel back to himself through their message of faith and hope. But then, as others who feared God also were drawn to the message of faith in Messiah, the circle of reconciliation began to widen across the known world at that time, and continues to this day.

Reconciliation is a process of peace, an adjustment of differences usually involving forgiveness and a restoration to a favorable condition. Yeshua taught that peacemakers are blessed, and that they would be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). This is THE defining characteristic of God’s children. In Jewish tradition based on this ancient concept, this is something still hoped for in a future time.

Tikkun means to repair or improve. Olam means the entire world. In Jewish teachings, any activity that improves the world, bringing it closer to the harmonious state for which it was created is considered Tikkun Olam.

Chabad.org, “Tikkun Olam

While Jews today view this process of repairing or restoring as something that will ultimately lead to a harmonious whole, Paul implies that God already reconciled the world through Messiah, and now it is up to his children to champion the cause to become evident in this reality.

Since God was spiritually reconciling the world to himself through Messiah, it makes sense that his children would also do the same in its current physical state. This is possible only when we recognize that we are no longer allowed to view others from our own limited perspective, but from the perspective of God.

2 Corinthians 5:16 – From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Messiah from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way.

We are to view others from a spiritual perspective, in the same way we now know Messiah. We don’t know Yeshua in the same way today as if we were to see him teaching in the streets. He has been exalted to a position of honor and authority at the right hand of God in heavenly places; this is how we relate to him today. Paul says we need to view others in a similar way: from an eternal and spiritual perspective, not from a fleshly one. When we do this, we are then given the ability to look beyond their fleshly resistance or aggression toward God and toward us. We can begin to love them as God does: as a dear creation of his whom he desires to draw to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:15 – And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

But this process involves us dying to ourselves in order to see the spiritual reality behind who they appear to be. Only then can we truly become Messiah’s ambassadors, seeing others in the same way that God does, and allowing him to work through us in continuing to reconcile the world to himself. When this happens among his people all around the world, God becomes “all in all,” and the kingdoms of this world then become his.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Keeping our hearts from unfair judgment

When we criticize, it becomes that much more difficult to forgive.

When we criticize, it becomes that much more difficult to forgive.

Matthew 7:1-2 – “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

This command of Yeshua to not be unjustly critical of others comes in the context of avoiding hypocrisy.

Matthew 7:3 – “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?”

However, beyond avoiding hypocrisy, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can recognize that when we are unjustly critical of others who are close to us we diminish our ability to provide forgiveness to them.

Judgment is the opposite of forgiveness, and harboring critical judgment in our hearts toward someone else numbs our sensitivity to forgiving them if they were to come to us in repentance toward some personal injustice. Because we have pre-judged them, we already have a negative emotion that is easier to act on than a rational acceptance of their genuine repentance which can lead to our forgiveness.

This pre-disposition to unfairly judge others is so common that Yeshua felt it was necessary to issue a clear command to avoid it at all costs.

In the story of the Prodigal son, Yeshua describes how the Father’s love for the son allowed him to suspend judgment on the son’s actions because of the larger benefit and joy of having his repentant son home again. The brother’s reaction was critical because of his jealousy at the prodigal’s apparent avoidance of accountability for poor choices. But it was not the brother’s place to judge the prodigal; it was the father’s, and the father had forgiven the prodigal son. So the brother ended up being judgmental and frustrated for essentially no reason. He could not participate in the celebration of the prodigal’s return because of the unjust judgment that he retained in his heart.

And this is an unintended result of our retention of unfair judgment of others; it robs us of joy. There is nothing happy about wanting to hold judgment over others when there is no reason to do so. This insistence on retaining criticism causes frustration and ongoing hostility. Instead, we should focus on removing unfair judgment from our hearts, especially when it is not within our right to judge someone else, or as in the case of the prodigal, someone else’s son.

Paul uses this logic when speaking of the critical judgments that existed between believers in the Roman congregation:

Romans 14:4 – “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall…”

When we realize it is not up to us to judge everybody else, we can instead focus on building positive relationships and remain open to avenues of forgiveness when inadvertent wrongs are committed and repented of.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Working for peace and harmony

How we handle disagreements is a reflection of our obedience to the instruction of God.

How we handle disagreements is a reflection of our obedience to the instruction of God.

Romans 12:17-18 – “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

This instruction from the apostle Paul comes in the context of a passage regarding living in harmony with others. We know that Yeshua taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), and this teaching of Paul actually expands on that principle for refining our understanding.

Paul encourages us to think rationally about what the ramifications of our vengeful nature might be, and to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Sometimes, we may be confronted with an individual who continues to push and shove to get their way, and in certain cases our initial response to this may not be what is equitable in the sight of everyone. Paul urges believers to remove themselves from the moment, from the heat of the disagreement, and to step back and look at the situation from a larger, more comprehensive perspective. Doing so can sometimes give us the insight needed to appropriately handle our interaction with that pushy individual to where we don’t act reflexively, but thoughtfully and carefully in light of who we are in Messiah.

Paul adds that we should live peaceably with all, but only so far as it depends on us and how we act or react in a given situation. We can’t be responsible for how other people may react in our interactions with them. We can only work for peace as much as we can, and then leave the rest to God. They may not be receptive to our overtures of peace, and yet that is not a reason to withhold it in the first place. We must always strive for unity when we can, and step away from resistance when we are unable to bridge the conflict. Our goal is to live in peace with all, but some may just not be receptive to it.

Ultimately, as believers, we should be actively seeking ways to forgive and overcome disagreements, especially with brothers and sisters in Messiah. But even with those who are adversarial toward us, we should seek as much as possible to overcome their evil actions toward us with good actions toward them. Most times, if done sincerely from a perspective of overcoming conflict, these good actions will open the doors for peace, and allow fruitful relationships to grow.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

God desires a completely surrendered life

The sincere actions of believers include all of themselves.

The sincere actions of believers include all of themselves.

Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

This is an interesting statement by Yeshua that can be easily missed in a casual reading of the passage. In stating that the believer should be reconciled before offering the sacrifice, Yeshua is placing reconciliation above the sacrifice. In effect, the sacrifice will be of no effect because the offerer’s heart is not right before God.

This is yet another instance in which Yeshua is emphasizing how important the heart is to a faithful worship of God. The law or instruction of God, even if followed perfectly, means nothing if the believer’s heart is not sincere. Notice, he did not say “go and be reconciled and forget about the sacrifice, because reconciliation is more important.” No, he said to go and be reconciled and “then come and offer your gift.” In this manner, Yeshua is upholding the law of God but also highlighting its intent, as well. A heart that is not right, harboring bitterness toward a brother, will only hypocritically be offering a sacrifice to God, and he won’t accept it. This is a heart that has not been fully surrendered to God.

The nation as a whole had been guilty of this very thing, and at one point had been called out by God through the prophet Amos:

Amos 5:21-22 – “I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.”

And why was this that God was rejecting their sacrifices and offerings? Because the leaders and the people were guilty of abusing the rights of those who they instead should have been protecting and helping.

Amos 5:10-12 – “They hate the one who convicts the guilty at the city gate, and they despise the one who speaks with integrity. … you trample on the poor and exact a grain tax from him … For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. They oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates.”

They were maintaining an outward appearance of conformity to the instruction of God and yet with every other breath they were taking advantage of those whom they should have been helping, according to the very law of God they had forsaken. This is the type of hypocrisy that God hates.

Reconciliation and forgiveness can be difficult because it means letting go of wrongs and hurts that may have been inflicted on us by others. But to maintain our own righteous anger towards those individuals is an injustice that rises above our attempts at pleasing God through our outward religious actions.

Consider who in your life you may need to be reconciled with before continuing a shallow and meaningless communal experience with God. He desires all of your heart, soul and strength, a combination of your complete self that can’t be divided by expending the energy of maintaining grudges or unforgiveness.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Honoring God while enduring injustice

Our spiritual perspective in crisis guides our actions and reactions.

Our spiritual perspective in crisis guides our actions and reactions.

Yeshua taught that believers should be following the example of the Father by loving their enemies; that they should speak well of them, help them, and pray for their needs. They should never retaliate, but instead, offer to go above and beyond for those who would be oppressing them (Matthew 5:38-48).

One of the clearest examples of this type of godly perspective is exhibited in the life of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his own family, he could have resisted every aspect of his captivity as being unjust and fought tooth and nail to escape at any opportunity he had. And yet, we find quite the opposite taking place. He instead chose to go above and beyond for his captors, and Yahweh blessed his efforts every time.

Genesis 39:2-4 – “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.”

Even though the wife of his master Potiphar created a controversy that threw Joseph into further distress, it appears the Joseph took even that additional oppression in stride as he sought to continually go above and beyond for his new captor in the Egyptian prison.

Genesis 39:21-23 – “And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.”

At every step of the way, Joseph could have struggled and fought against his captors, but we find that was not the case. It appears that throughout his experience he understood a deeper spiritual principle of serving God to the best of one’s ability no matter the circumstance. He appears to have had a forgiving attitude toward his captors, recognizing that they were just doing what they did because that was who they were. Yet, he was somehow able to remain in a mindset that honored Yahweh at all times.

We get a glimpse into his spiritual perspective that helped him through those dark times when, in his rise to power at the right hand of the Pharaoh, he confronts his estranged brothers with his true identity, and offers the ultimate form of forgiveness to them.

Genesis 45:4-8 “…He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God…”

As believers, having and maintaining a perspective that God is ultimately in control of the main events of our lives as we submit to him provides a depth of release that should allow us to act in his best interest and to honor him in all we do. In those situations where we may feel oppressed, we can bring glory to his name by going above and beyond for our oppressors. It not only can soften the yoke we bear, but can be an opportunity for them to see the power of God working through us in situations where others would typically rebel or respond harshly.

Having a Joseph mindset can produce the fruit of the Spirit that include kindness, goodness and self-control in the midst of circumstances that may seem out of control. Recognizing that it is all under the control of the Almighty God can keep us centered and focused on honoring him by honorably serving others, even when (and especially when) our circumstances may appear unjust. It may just be that God is working a greater work that requires us to be placed in a position that may be uncomfortable for the moment but will ultimately result in his mercy and kindness being exhibited to others through our acceptance and honorable service through it.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Seek and you will find

Yeshua reveals that the Father follows his own advice.

The fifteenth chapter of Luke is all about things that are lost and found. Verses 1-7 are the parable of the lost sheep; verses 8-10 are about the woman who found a lost coin, and 11-32 are the parable of the prodigal son.

Zooming out a little further from these three stories in the text, we find them nestled in between other parables in chapters 14 and 16 that have a harsher tone and mention judgments of various kinds. In chapter 14 Yeshua recounts parables regarding invitations to banquets that are rejected or misused, along with a challenging call to discipleship. Chapter 16 is the parable of the unjust steward and then the rich man and Lazarus. Yet, in between these judgment parables are the three stories of redemption and reuniting.

While all of these parables have wonderful messages for application within themselves, viewing them all together also reveals a larger message. Through this intentional arrangement of Yeshua’s teachings, it appears Luke as the author is highlighting the overall tenor of Yeshua’s mission: the willingness of God to seek out and forgive amidst an environment of rejection and judgment. Judgment was coming upon Israel because of their rejection of him, but God was earnestly seeking out any who would be repentant; he was willing and ready to forgive.

Matthew 4:14-17 – …what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Yeshua began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Just as the good shepherd went and searched for the one lost sheep, or the woman diligently searched for the lost coin, Yeshua reveals that God was scouring through his people, looking for those who were sincere in turning to him. The lost son does not only arrive back at home after squandering his inheritance, but the father runs to meet him as he repents of his waywardness. All of these are indications of how God was anxious for his people to turn back to him from their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. He was earnestly looking for those with pure hearts who were hungry for true righteousness and faithfulness to his Word, his torah, or instruction.

As Israel was meant to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6), we can draw insight for application in our lives, as well. If these parables demonstrate the true heart of God for those who are repentant, then we can have confidence that God is not only willing to receive those who turn to him with true hearts and sincerity, but he will earnestly seek them out.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The quality of God that exhibits his greatest strength

God’s power and might are overshadowed by the depth of his forgiveness.

Core of the Bible podcast #63 – The quality of God that exhibits his greatest strength

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness is revealed in the Bible as being the strength of Yahweh that historically distinguished him from the pantheon of ancient gods and continues to do so today.

Psalm 130:3-4 – “If You, O Yahweh, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.”

The Psalmist here 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. By contrast, the deities of the ancient nations exhibited their power through their strength, ruthlessness, and promises of fulfillment of selfish ambition.

For example, out of the hundreds of ancient Egyptian gods listed by the World History Encyclopedia, there are numerous gods with unique attributes of power, healing, war, death, and success. However, not one of them is mentioned as a god or goddess representing or offering forgiveness. Forgiveness was not a concept known to the ancient Egyptians.

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/885/egyptian-gods—the-complete-list/

Likewise, the Greek deities were depicted with weaknesses and foibles rivalling those of the most degenerate of human behavior.  While the Greeks had very mature philosophies surrounding justice and equity, the concept of personal forgiveness was not widely known or accepted.

David Leigh, writing on forgiveness in the ancient Greek culture for Seattle University comments:

“A study of the earliest Greek literature and philosophy indicates that the Greeks developed a strong sense of justice and law as related to both gods and humans, but did not develop a concept of forgiveness or mercy. The closest they came to the latter concept was the practice of legal leniency and the notion of ‘pity’. But pity was a later development, especially in Greek epics and drama, as a human response to the strict notions of justice and law that dominated their mythology and early philosophy…it is clear that forgiveness was not a primary virtue for these early Greeks. Neither the gods nor human beings in early Greece were seen as ‘forgiving’ people their injustices or offenses.”

Forgiveness, Pity, and Ultimacy in Ancient Greek Culture, David J. Leigh, S.J., Seattle University, Seattle, WA 98122 USA.

Additionally, out of the hundred or so Roman deities who were responsible for everything from childbirth, fertility, money, harvest, future, etc., there was only one goddess noted within the bounds of what could be considered forgiveness: Clementia. Yet, even this is not necessarily evidence of forgiveness as we know it today, but an ideal of legal clemency (which is where the word comes from) in matters of justice.

Quoting from William Mann, commenting on the book “Ancient Forgiveness” from the Cambridge press, he writes the following:

“In “The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings,” Susanna Morton Braund concentrates on the role that Seneca may have played in commending clementia to rulers as a virtue of self-restraint, manifested in mildness of behavior. Conceived in this way clemency is an exclusive prerogative of the powerful. As Seneca defines it clementia is “the leniency of the more powerful party toward the weaker in the matter of setting penalties”, not to be confused with forgiveness. While forgiveness seeks reconciliation, clemency achieves subordination, frequently producing public humiliation in its recipients.”

Charles L. Griswold and David Konstan (eds.), Ancient Forgiveness: Classical, Judaic, and Christian, Cambridge University Press, Reviewed by William E. Mann, University of Vermont.

In our modern society and culture steeped in several millennia of forgiveness as a cultural ideal, we take for granted that forgiveness has always been a philosophical concept that was honored among all people, but history states otherwise. From our modern perspective, we have only a fleeting glimpse of the tyranny and injustice that was displayed throughout the ancient world. For millennia, with the rise and fall of many empires, that environment was a harsh place with cruel justice, both physically and spiritually.

If we are to place a biblical faith within the context of its origins, it was a shining beacon of light in the midst of a sea of darkness. The ideals of forgiveness offered through the God of the Bible were unheard of in the ancient world until they were exemplified by the ancient Israelites in their torah practices, which culminated in the gospel of the kingdom brought forth by their Messiah and his early believers.

In this light, Yahweh stands out among the ancient gods for his characteristic forgiveness.

Psalm 86:2-5 – “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.”

This is why Moses could stand before the Israelites as they were preparing to enter the land of Canaan and say:

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – “Look, I have taught you statutes and ordinances as Yahweh my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to possess. “Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as Yahweh our God is to us whenever we call to him? “And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today?

These righteous statutes and ordinances resulted in the ability of the Hebrew prophets to extol the mercies and forgiveness available to the people when they would return to Yahweh from serving the harsh gods of the surrounding nations.

Isaiah 55:7 – “Let the wicked man forsake his own way and the unrighteous man his own thoughts; let him return to Yahweh, that he may have compassion, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

This is one of the main reasons idolatry has been forbidden by the true God; he wanted to protect his own from experiencing the unnecessary and cruel harshness of those cultural and societal demands. His way provided a nearness of relationship that those other religions could not provide.


At the dawning of the spiritual Kingdom of God being realized on the earth, a baby was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, two righteous parents who were faithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel. After the child’s birth, Zechariah, filled with the Spirit of God, uttered a prophecy about John:

Luke 1:76-79 – “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,  to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.  Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us  to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This was the continuation of a path of forgiveness for God’s people that would rise above the forgiveness offered through the substitutionary sacrifices of the torah of Moses. Those physical sacrifices pointed a way toward ultimate fulfillment, and a way of peace that would be laid out through the ministry of Yeshua.

Beyond exhibiting the forgiveness that God had been offering to the Israelites through their sacrificial offerings, Yeshua emphasized the responsibility and duty of people within this kingdom to forgive one another.

Matthew 6:14  – “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

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 11:4  – “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us…”

This forgiveness was to extend not only to those with whom individuals were familiar, but to provide kindnesses to enemies and workers of harm, and to be generous to those in need, as well.

Luke 6:27-31  – “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.”

This is where the gospel light shines the brightest. This is the root of how the world is changed through believers in each generation. Considered in view of this principle of mutual forgiveness and kindness to even adversaries, 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, though, 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.

The God of the Bible is indeed all powerful. He represents himself as having created all that exists, and he has the ability to destroy kingdoms and lift up others for his own honor and glory. And yet, surveyed against the backdrop of historical beliefs and cruel demands of pagan gods, his greatest strength lies not in his unchallenged power to create or destroy, but in his demonstration of and willingness to provide forgiveness to those who turn to him.

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 his greatest strength?  In this way, our likeness with our Father is displayed, and honor is brought to his name. This is the path of forgiveness and peace that we are tasked with walking.

Luke 6:36 – “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Loving actions spring from God’s forgiveness

God’s love should be the primary motivation for our love for others.

If you’ve been a reader of this journal for any length of time, you know that one of the key principles from the Sermon on the Mount revolves around the holiness, or set-apartness, of believers. Example after example is provided by Yeshua on what the religious hypocrites practice, and how he encourages his disciples to do the opposite, or to do something more meaningful. The disciples’ lives were to be pure and blameless with a righteousness that surpassed that of the Pharisees because of the sincerity of their hearts.

So it is little wonder that the religious elite also questioned Yeshua on his choice of company that he kept.

Luke 5:30-32 – But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

If he was truly a teacher of the Word of God and was supposed to be demonstrating his holiness, or set-apartness, then why was he constantly fraternizing with the very people who the Pharisees condemned as flagrant sinners?

The answer Yeshua gives provides an insight into his life and ministry that should prompt us with a similar response.

Matthew 9:12-13 – When Yeshua heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

I think the rendering in this version brings out the meaning of the passage beautifully. The Pharisees were guilty of self-righteousness; those who believed every thing they did was so set apart from wickedness that of course God would favor them. However, Yeshua says that God is really closest to those who “know they are sinners.” Those who know they have violated his standards, and want to do what is right because they know they have offended him.

By contrast, the Pharisees did righteous things because they thought it would make them look better in God’s eyes than the sinful actions of those around them. Therefore they did not demonstrate the love for God and others or seek his forgiveness as God desired them to because they felt they were already on the right path, and of course God would favor them.

This is why Yeshua could drive the point home when confronted by a Pharisee as to why he allowed a woman to pour perfume on him and wash his feet with her tears. Yeshua illustrates that her actions and her tears of repentance demonstrated that she realized she had done sinful things, and she wanted to do whatever she could in response to the depth of forgiveness that God offered her.

Luke 7:47 – “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Our love for God and others will be proportionate to the recognition of the forgiveness that we believe we have received. When we realize the depth of God’s love in overlooking our blatant and sinful actions, we should be driven ever closer to him, and our lives should be living demonstrations of that bountiful forgiveness toward others in like measure as we have received.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The challenge of freely offering forgiveness

It involves giving others something they do not have, but desparately need.

Contrary to how much the word is used among congregations today, the word forgiveness appears in the Bible only a limited number of times. In the King James version, the frequency is as follows:

  • forgiveness occurs 56 times in 48 verses, 21 in the NT
  • forgiven occurs 42 times in 38 verses, 20 in the NT
  • forgiveness occurs 7 times in 7 verses, 6 in the NT
  • forgiving occurs 4 times in 4 verses, 2 in the NT

Overall, the concept of forgiveness in all of the forms above is mentioned just under fifty times in the NT. By comparison, the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is mentioned over a hundred times in the NT, and love is represented 158 times in the NT.

There are several Hebrew and Greek words that are used to express this concept of forgiveness; however, I would like to focus one of the primary Greek words used in the NT for forgive, charizomai. In the Outline of Biblical Usage, the word is used in the following ways:

  • to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify
  • to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent
  • to grant forgiveness, to pardon
  • to give graciously, give freely, bestow
  • to forgive
  • graciously to restore one to another
  • to preserve for one a person in peril

The Strong’s definition puts an even finer point on it by defining it this way:
to grant as a favor, i.e. gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue:—deliver, (frankly) forgive, (freely) give, grant.

Looking at all of the various ways that this word is used, I get a sense that this concept involves a type of giving; giving of something to someone else that they don’t currently have. I like the Strong’s perspective of granting a favor or pardon. What this emphasizes to me is that the process of forgiveness involves a bestowal of favor, merited or not, upon another individual. In fact, the word is rooted in the Greek term charis, where we get the English word grace, generally meaning unmerited favor.

You see, to forgive someone is to unequivocally grant them something they are lacking: pardon for an offense. To be able to give this to someone else involves a letting go of any negative emotion that may be tied to that offense in order to give a genuine pardon freely and sincerely. There can be no strings attached, no conditions of forgiveness. They may continue to create offense in the same or different ways, but if we are sincere in our granting of forgiveness we must continue to do so.

Peter clarified this for us when he asked Yeshua about how many times we should bestow forgiveness upon another:

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Yeshua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

We may think that forgiving someone who has wronged us is a monumental thing in the eyes of God. It certainly is an indication that we are allowing God’s Spirit to work through us. However, if it is only the first of 490 times that we are commanded to forgive someone, then we still have a long way to go to meet God’s standards!

Obviously, the number of times we are commanded to forgive is hyperbole for the sake of emphasis, but doesn’t it adequately make the point that we should essentially be in a constant state of forgiving others? Especially in today’s digital age, there is no shortage of offense that is displayed between individuals. How much more we need to emphasize the lofty standard of forgiveness to those around us.

By doing so, our exhibition of this trait can spur others to notice with what difference we, as believers in Messiah, react to the situations we encounter. When those with whom you interact begin to realize that you are sincere in this level of granting favor, their lives can be positively impacted in tangible ways when they receive the forgiveness and pardon that can only be granted by you.

Don’t hold it over their heads; offer it freely.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.