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.

Guarding against moral degradation

We must protect ourselves against falling into old, destructive patterns.

1 Corinthians 15:33-34 – Do not be deceived: “Bad associations corrupt good moral habits.” Come to your senses and stop sinning; for some people are ignorant about God. I say this to your shame.

The text here speaks of bad associations; those companionships and conversations that have little to no redeeming value. In our association with these types of relationships and interactions, the apostle Paul warns that we are in danger of becoming deceived. We need to demonstrate vigilance in our activities among those who are ignorant about God as we can be led into sinful areas.

While we certainly need to interact with those around us who may not presently know God, we may sometimes feel that our remaining involvement with them, especially those closer acquaintances and relationships, can help to pull them toward God. However, I once received some sage advice from a former pastor. He mentioned how if someone is standing on a chair, it is much easier for a group of people to pull them off of the chair than for the person on the chair to pull others up.

Proverbs 13:20 – He who walks with the wise will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

While these cautionary admonitions apply to those around us, the same logic holds true for those who may be within our congregations. We may feel more confidence that those inside our local groups can be reliable companions. However, earlier in the same epistle to the Corinthians, Paul has some similar advice.

1 Corinthians 5:6 – Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough?

Paul here uses the analogy of how yeast can overtake an entire batch of dough with just a little bit of time. In Hebraic thinking, an unleavened batch of dough that is left to itself can absorb yeast particles from ambient conditions and become leavened in as little as a day or two, sometimes only a matter of hours. In this sense, we need to guard ourselves and our local believing communities from those who could potentially bring in harmful ways.

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 – I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.

While we can’t escape all worldly influence in our daily lives, we can certainly be vigilant with those who claim to be believers and yet persist in ways that are ungodly. Our role then switches from one of shared companionship to one of accountability.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 – For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? God judges outsiders. Remove the evil person from among you.

While we are not in a position to be judgmental of how those in the world conduct themselves, Paul says ultimately God judges them. In closer relationships with non-believers, we can distance ourselves when we see that our familiarity with them is not bearing fruit, and we ourselves may be in danger of falling into old, destructive patterns.

Within our congregations, however, our responsibility is to ensure that we are not associating with those who claim to be believers but are unrepentant. Then we do have the right, and the responsibility, to confront their sinfulness.

Ultimately, with all of our interactions in life, we need to be vigilant about maintaining truth and following Yeshua in sincerity and obedience. When we do so, we can be led to further areas of wisdom and understanding.

Proverbs 9:6 – Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.


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! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

How to change the world, or at least your corner of it

Integrity has the ability to influence others through maintaining a set of internal commitments that will not be shaken under any circumstance.

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. … Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. … The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. … But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.

Daniel 1:1, 3, 5, 8

One of our admonitions from Yeshua is to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands (Matt. 5:20). Sometimes these external commands take the form of direct instruction, and sometimes these “commands” come in the form of allowances or tolerations of our culture that would violate the purity of our relationship with God. We must resist both forms of this type of cultural influence.

In the case of Daniel and his friends, they were removed from their home and brought to a completely different culture under a new political regime. Even though they were favored within this new dynamic, Daniel and his friends, in their integrity, resolved not to be negatively influenced by this turn of events, and to remain loyal to God.

The Hebrew culture that Daniel had been raised in had very specific dietary requirements in order to maintain faithfulness to the Torah, or instruction, of God for his people. Given the “freedom” to eat all types of foods and meats in his new environment, Daniel was committed to remain faithful to those requirements at any cost.

Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.” Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff … “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. … At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.

Daniel 1:9-12, 15

Daniel and his friends were able to demonstrate to this chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s staff that God was able to meet their needs, even if it meant going against the cultural “mandate” of royal rations.

Integrity has this ability to influence others through maintaining a set of internal commitments that will not be shaken under any circumstance. This is a highly valued commodity among all people because it is rarely seen in common practice.

It is our obligation as believers to be so thoroughly committed to our faith that through our integrity we become the influencers of those around us, rather than allowing them to influence us.

Making a Difference

A heart of godly compassion wants to influence others for their good.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

Matthew 5:13

Be as distinctive and useful as salt while on this earth. 

The life of a believer should be one of influencing the world around them; not necessarily the whole world, but the extent of their personal reach. This influence should be as natural as breathing to a believer, but as profound as the most challenging ethic to others. An encounter with a believer should be a unique experience, one that carries a distinctive “taste” amidst a world of bland personal opinion and selfish actions.

In being genuinely concerned for the things of God, a believer will naturally demonstrate a quality that stands out from the experiences that most people have in their relationships with others. There will be a positive “something” that separates the believer from the rest of a person’s worldly interactions.

Drawing on the metaphor of Yeshua, salt can be an enhancement to the flavor of food. It is also a means of preservation and healing. These are the characteristics and influences that a believer will have on those around them. All of these stem from a godly heart that wants to influence others for their good while doing the right thing at all times.

If we are not demonstrating these “salty” values, then our faith is serving no real purpose; it hasn’t made a difference to anyone but ourselves.

Ultimately, is that a true faith?