Forgiveness and reconciliation can only stem from a renewed heart

The words we speak illustrate or reveal what is actually in our hearts.

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

Luke 6:45

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

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

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

Luke 6:43-45

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

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

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

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

The words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart.

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

Luke 6:28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The apostle Paul speaks of it this way:

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

2 Corinthians 5:17

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

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

Proverbs 4:23

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

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

James 3:8-12

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

Living lives of integrity by intentionally placing God’s word in our hearts

We should be so imbued with God’s word that we should act with integrity as a reflex.

Do what is right and good in the Yahweh’s sight, so all will go well with you. … For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands Yahweh our God has given us.

Deuteronomy 6:18, 25

Yeshua taught that believers should demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands. The integrity of the actions we pursue and the decisions we make should come from a genuine place in our hearts, not just outward compliance.

What Yeshua was teaching the audience of his day was nothing new. Moses had urged this of the Hebrew community over a millennia earlier, and they had formed many traditions around his template to maintain a continuous recognition of the commands of God.

Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The method used by Hebrew believers over the years to accomplish this doing of the commands from the heart is in the recitation of the Shema. As outlined from a popular Jewish website below, this process has become a daily declaration of their faith.

Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) (“Hear, O Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is the centerpiece of the morning and evening prayer services, encapsulating the monotheistic essence of Judaism:

“Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.”

In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.

Its recitation twice daily (morning and evening) is a biblical commandment. In addition, we recite it just before retiring for the night, as well as in the Kedushah service on Shabbat.

Indeed, this succinct statement has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth.

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/705353/jewish/The-Shema.htm

While I am not suggesting we adopt this specific Jewish tradition listed above, its method of identifying what is most important and reviewing it in an intentional way should be an example to us of the tenacity required to imbue their culture with a recognition of an obedient life, an upright and righteous life, a life of true integrity.

How diligent are we in making sure the words of God are in our hearts so we can act on them without even thinking? Like physical reflexes, we should respond to our situations and conditions in ways that honor God because his instruction is thriving in our hearts. When situations arise that demand our obedience, we shouldn’t have to seek commentaries and biblical concordances; we should be so imbued with God’s word that his Spirit can bring those insights to the forefront of our thinking, and therefore our actions, whenever needed.

Moses’ method in the commandment involves a constant, daily, repetitious routine that would saturate the culture of the people. “…you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

If we could find ways to incorporate this level of diligence in our daily routines for ourselves and within our families, we would not only be following the commandment, but we would also be living lives of integrity that would be clearly and intentionally patterned on God’s word.