Growing in the maturity of forgiveness

We need to learn to let God be God and to focus instead on doing good through forgiveness.

Core of the Bible podcast #35 – Growing in the maturity of forgiveness

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness is a quality that comes from a mature heart, a heart that knows and understands how powerful forgiveness is.

Yeshua stated it this way:

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

This teaching of Yeshua instructs us to not criticize others. It also highlights several different aspects of judgment and forgiveness, so let’s take a look at some of these ideas.

UNIVERSAL BALANCE AND EQUITY

Firstly, it implies that there is a balance, or a universal equity that God maintains. This is brought out in similar passages speaking of this aspect of God’s nature. There are national examples of this as well as personal examples. Let’s look at a couple of national examples to start.

National justice – Israel

Ezekiel 7:8-9 – I will pour out my wrath on you very soon; I will exhaust my anger against you and judge you according to your ways. I will punish you for all your detestable practices.  I will not look on you with pity or spare you. I will punish you for your ways and for your detestable practices within you. Then you will know that it is I, the LORD, who strikes.

National justice – Babylon

Jeremiah 25:14 – “For many nations and great kings will enslave them [Babylonians], and I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.’ “

Personal justice as consequence of actions

Job 4:8 – In my experience, those who plow injustice and those who sow trouble reap the same.

Galatians 6:7-9 – Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

2 Peter 2:1 – There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves.

In this same way, Yeshua teaches that if an individual is overly critical of others, the same level of critical judgment will be applied to them.

Matthew 7:2 – “For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.

Therefore, if we desire to be forgiven by God and others, we should be forgiving and God will then use the same measure of forgiveness with us.

FORGIVENESS: THE OTHER SIDE OF JUDGMENT

While condemnation and judgment are the focus of Yeshua’s teaching, forgiveness is introduced as a quality that sits outside of judgment, as a counter-balance to judgment on the scale of overall mercy.

When judgment is the primary objective, the focus of forgiveness becomes diminished, and mercy wanes. However, when forgiveness is the primary objective, judgment and condemnation are diminished, and mercy increases. Like two sides of the same coin, both judgment and forgiveness have a role in the merciful life of a believer. 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, when two young children are playing together, they can become possessive of their belongings. 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. To express forgiveness, there  not only has to be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed (that is, a judgment), but another “something” beyond that judgment that goes beyond and reaches out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

Forgiveness is the counter-intuitive solution for bringing closure to unresolved conflict or to reducing an escalation of aggression. This takes maturity of wisdom, as the natural base response is almost always to respond to injustice in kind. It also takes maturity through humility, as it is more godly to simply accept being personally wronged for the sake of forgiveness in a relationship than trying to continually force your rights upon others.

1 Corinthians 6:5-7 – I say this to your shame! Can it be that there is not one wise person among you who is able to arbitrate between fellow believers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers! As it is, to have legal disputes against one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

1 Peter 2:21-23 – For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

Our perspective should always be to entrust ourselves to God; this is where the capacity and the ability to forgive others can come from. When we do so, we are fulfilling our objective of acting and reacting in the same way as our Father.

We see all through God’s word that he is forgiving and slow to anger. This is why God’s judgment may not at times be recognized by others because the timing of this judgment by God does not always immediately follow an infraction.

Nahum 1:3 – The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will never leave the guilty unpunished…

Psalm 86:15 – But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth.

Psalm 103:8 – The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.

FORGIVENESS AND BALANCE EXEMPLIFIED

This theme of God being slow to anger is related over and over again throughout the Bible. However, there is a passage in Nehemiah that highlights and contrasts his long-suffering compassion with the universal balance of justice we have been talking about.

Nehemiah 9:16-25 – But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to your commands. They refused to listen and did not remember your wonders you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, and you did not abandon them. Even after they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, “This is your god who brought you out of Egypt,” and they had committed terrible blasphemies, you did not abandon them in the wilderness because of your great compassion. During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go. You sent your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. You provided for them in the wilderness forty years, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. You gave them kingdoms and peoples and established boundaries for them. They took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and of the land of King Og of Bashan. You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky and brought them to the land you told their ancestors to go in and possess. So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them. They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in your great goodness.

Even though the people had not listened to God’s commands, he did not immediately crush them and deliver them over to others. His long compassion and slowness to anger allowed them to accomplish many great things for his power and purpose to be known.

However, as amazing and enabling as God’s compassion and forgiveness can be, the Bible is also clear that justice will be realized in the balance of God’s Creation, in his time. Even if it is not something that occurs right away, it still comes to pass.

Nehemiah 9:26-30 – But they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They flung your law behind their backs and killed your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to you. They committed terrible blasphemies. So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies. But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in your sight. So you abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven and rescued them many times in your compassion. You warned them to turn back to your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey. You were patient with them for many years, and your Spirit warned them through your prophets, but they would not listen. Therefore, you handed them over to the surrounding peoples.

So through all of this we can see the contrast of judgment and forgiveness, back and forth, over and over again. God is patient and compassionate, but if rebellion continues there comes a point where justice is needed to restore the universal balance. And all of this occurs in God’s timing, not our own. When this lack of immediate justice happens, we may feel as the prophet Habakkuk did:

Habakkuk 1:13 – Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. So why do you tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are you silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?

This is why God may appear to us to be hidden or not taking action when we think he should. It may just be that the cycle of his long-suffering compassion is in play before the universal balance of justice needs to be restored.

This is also why we are commanded to refrain from our own vengeance.

Romans 12:17-21 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Our role as God’s people is to not focus on the natural response toward judgment and retribution, but instead to let God be God and to focus instead on doing good through forgiveness.

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 of forgiveness to thrive, they are enabled to grow into acts of mercy, and ultimately to blossom into genuine love.


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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The maturity of forgiveness

When we are forgiving of others, we are not only setting an individual free from condemnation, we are also setting ourselves free from the emotional bondage created by our insistence on holding that condemnation over their heads.

Core of the Bible podcast #28 – The maturity of forgiveness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, especially as forgiveness reigns over judgment, and how forgiveness is a sign of emotional and spiritual maturity.

Yeshua stated it this way:

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

When we typically think of the quality of forgiveness, it’s usually placed as a virtue that is opposite hatred. To forgive is to love and not to hate. However, in this passage, we find that mercy and forgiveness are placed in direct contrast not with hatred, but with condemnation and judgment.

In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, it says “Seek not to judge at all. If you must judge, be not eager to condemn.”

Albert Barnes writes: “This command [to not judge] refers to rash, censorious, and unjust judgment.” He continues this thought by saying, “people are prone to be severe judges of others.”

Of course, it’s easy to condemn someone else, but that type of condemnation is not always based on all of the facts. Additionally, if we are overly judgmental of others, we may be guilty of committing the same acts.

For example, consider the passage of the woman caught in adultery in John 8.

John 8:3-11 – Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. “In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? ” They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? ”  “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Recognize it was primarily the scribes and Pharisees who were confronted with their hypocrisy.

Or consider the situation of David when the prophet Nathan confronts him on his affair with Bathsheba:

2 Samuel 12:1-7, 9, 13  – So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very large flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised her, and she grew up with him and with his children. From his meager food she would eat, from his cup she would drink, and in his arms she would sleep. She was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.  David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! “Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.”  Nathan replied to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD God of Israel says: You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife ​– ​you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword.” …  David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Hypocrisy and unjust judgment go hand in hand. Barnes concludes: “the heart is deceitful. When we judge others we should make it a rule to examine ourselves on that very point. Such an examination might greatly mitigate the severity of our judgment; or might turn the whole of our indignation against ourselves.”

When we are condemning and judgmental, we are are out of balance with God’s ideal, and we then place ourselves in the path of accountability with God himself.

Matthew 7:1-2 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.

Yeshua teaches us to not be critical of others. In this teaching, he 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 only conveyed in the treatment received by others, but in respect to our ultimate accountability to God.

Albert Barnes writes, ” You shall be judged by the same rule which you apply to others. It refers no less to the way in which people will judge of us, than to the rule by which God will judge us.”

John Gill adds, “Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; censure not men’s persons, and judge not their state, or adjudge them to condemnation for every offence in practice, or because they differ in principle, lest you should be treated in like manner by others; and especially, lest you should fall under the righteous censure, judgment, and condemnation of God.”

This condemnation by God 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 always be realized in the balance of God’s Creation, in his time.

Now by contrast, there is fair judgment as a legitimate function of our abilities, and it provides a necessary distinction between right and wrong. We rely on our judgment to ensure that fairness is being practiced or demonstrated. Consider what Albert Barnes writes in regard to this aspect of judgment:

“Christ does not condemn judging as a magistrate, for that, when according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does he condemn our “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, for it is impossible ‘not’ to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every palliating [or disguised] circumstance, and a habit of ‘expressing’ such an opinion harshly and unnecessarily when formed. It rather refers to private judgment than ‘judicial,’ and perhaps primarily to the customs of the scribes and Pharisees.”

This fairness type of judgment is not a complex function of humans. For example, even toddlers can recognize when playmates are being fair or unfair when it comes to sharing toys.

However, where judgment becomes problematic is when it is no longer used as a tool of objective equity, but when it becomes a method of abusing our relationships with those who may not agree with us. We may be quick to pronounce judgment before understanding all of the facts of a particular situation, or we may be over-zealous to condemn a quality that we ourselves demonstrate on occasion, just as David did.

Once we have embedded our perception of a situation, or closed our mind to new data about what may have actually happened, we have shut off the potential for further interaction or possible reconciliation, and when that happens, condemnation typically results.


Now that we have detailed many different aspects of judgment and condemnation, let’s focus on the balance of forgiveness. By contrast, forgiveness is a quality that sits outside of judgment. When judgment is the primary objective, the possibility of forgiveness becomes diminished. When maintaining or restoring a relationship is a primary objective, then the potential for forgiveness increases. Both are necessary, but both serve different purposes.

Forgiveness is a more abstract quality that requires an increased level of maturity over just determining what’s right and wrong. There has to not only be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed, but another “something” beyond the understanding of that wrong or that perceived imbalance of equity, that is still willing to reach out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

Referring to Vincent’s Word Studies, the Greek word for forgive has another nuanced meaning.

“Lit., release. … Christ exhorts to the opposite of what he has just forbidden: “do not condemn, but release.”

When we forgive someone, we release them from condemnation; that’s what forgiveness is. The condemnation appears to us as a deserved punishment for some infraction. However, forgiveness provides a release; that person is now set free.

Additionally, a release is just as effective emotionally for us because now we no longer have to hold that infraction against that individual. Holding grudges consumes large amounts of emotional energy that can be better used in building positive relationships. When we are forgiving of others, we are not only setting an individual free from condemnation, we are also setting ourselves free from the emotional bondage created by our insistence on holding that condemnation over their heads.

Here’s an interesting perspective that you may not have considered when reading this passage in Luke 6. Following closely on the heels of this admonition to forgiveness, Yeshua then introduces the blessings of generosity.

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure ​– ​pressed down, shaken together, and running over ​– ​will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Rather than making this solely about giving of our resources to needy individuals (which is still an important and valid concept), if we keep the immediate context of judgment and forgiveness, we find that this concept of generosity actually applies to the topic at hand and connects forgiveness with generosity. When we forgive, we are being generous; generous with our mercy, generous with our emotions, and generous with our friendships. This generosity of action, according to Yeshua, leads to that generosity being returned to us many times over. When we are generous forgivers, forgiveness comes back to us over and over.

The Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary puts it this way:

this form of mercy is suggested by Matthew 7:2, [to] be giving, implying a constant habit, and therefore a generous nature.— good, generous measure; these words and those which follow apply to man’s giving as well as to the recompense with which the generous giver shall be rewarded.—pressed down, shaken, and overflowing…”

John Gill presents an interesting analysis of the cosmic retribution or balance that was evident among the Hebrew thinking of the day, and is also evident within specific patterns and stories presented in the Bible.

“And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. This was an usual proverb among the Jews; it is sometimes delivered out thus, “measure against measure”; but oftener thus and nearer the form of it here, “with what measure a man measures, they measure to him”: one might fill up almost a page, in referring to places, where it is used in this form:”

And he provides the following biblical examples:

“With what measure a man measures, they measure to him”; so the woman suspected of adultery, she adorned herself to commit sin, and God dishonoured her; she exposed herself to iniquity, God therefore stripped her naked; the same part of her body in which her sin begun, her punishment did.

Samson walked after his eyes, and therefore the Philistines plucked out his eyes.

Absalom was lifted up in his mind, with his hair, and therefore he was hanged by it; and because he lay with his father’s ten concubines, they therefore pierced him with ten lances; and because he stole away three hearts, the heart of his father, the heart of the sanhedrim, and the heart of Israel, therefore he was thrust with three darts: and so it is with respect to good things;

Miriam waited for Moses one hour, therefore the Israelites waited for her seven days in the wilderness;

Joseph, who was greater than his brethren, buried his father;

and Moses, who was the greatest among the Israelites took care of the bones of Joseph, and God himself buried Moses.”

This commentary and excerpts from Jewish writings demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of this principle recognized by Jewish writers throughout their history and their writings. All throughout God’s word we see this balance of righteousness being meted out. This principle applies in all situations, at all times.

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. If we are truly intent on keeping God’s word and honestly serving him in all things, then our hearts should be filled with love and forgiveness and it will in like fashion be returned to us, many times over, both from men and God. As we continually plant seeds of forgiveness through acts of mercy, we will find they will ultimately blossom into genuine and reciprocal love.


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

The maturity of forgiveness

Judgment provides a needed distinction between right and wrong, but forgiveness captures the possibility of love.

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.