Contrasts leading to forgiveness

The Biblical injunctions to avoid foolish and impetuous talk remain consistent over the centuries.

The Biblical injunctions to avoid foolish and impetuous talk remain consistent over the centuries.

Matthew 5:22 – “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the Council; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be liable to Gehenna fire.”

This saying of Yeshua appears extreme for such a seemingly petty offense. Anger and name-calling can have you dragged into court and ultimately into the judgment of God. What is even stranger is that it is pronounced in the larger context of murder, a crime which seems much more severe. Why the contrast? And is this a new teaching?

Well, to the first point, Yeshua almost always states things in contrast, as this provides the greatest clarity of the topic at hand. When two contrasts are presented, the truth then becomes self-evident.

Matthew 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.”

The salt is understood to be of no value if it loses the very thing that makes it unique among all other minerals or spices. This is a perfect analogy revealing the purpose of the believer is to not compromise their uniqueness as a child of God in a world of corruption.

Matthew 5:14-15 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

The absurdity of lighting a lamp only to cover it with a basket illustrates the same principle: a believer is meant to shine, not to be outwardly like everyone else; we must shine with the light God gives us.

And the teaching of Yeshua about calling someone a fool and being in danger of Gehenna fire was not a new teaching, either. For example, the psalmist warned of the dangers of anger and wrath, how it can only lead to further evildoing, and how evildoers would ultimately receive judgment of God.

Psalm 37:7-9: “Rest in Yahweh, and wait patiently for him. Don’t fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who makes wicked plots happen. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath. Don’t fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for Yahweh shall inherit the land.”

A similar thought is conveyed in the Proverbs, as well.

Proverbs 18:6-7 – “A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth invites beatings. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul.”

In contrast to these judgments of ruin or snared souls, Yeshua encourages love and forgiveness. If we have called someone “empty-headed” or a fool, we are already headed on a path that can lead us down a path of potential escalation, ultimately resulting in a greater judgment. But if we forgive, we cut that path off and open the door to the avoidance of further strife and reconciliation.

  • Matthew 5:44 – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
  • Ephesians 4:26-27 – “‘Be angry, and yet do not sin’; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 – “All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Messiah also has forgiven you.”
  • Titus 3:2 – “…to slander no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing every consideration for all people.”

Kindness and forgiveness are much more in line with the attitude that God expects of his children. Being understanding and showing consideration, even amidst disagreement, goes a long way toward representing God in a positive light to those who may not know him. A little salt and a little light provide opportunities for healing and understanding.


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Being nice people in a world that is not nice

Abiding by God’s pattern of forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:32 – And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

We see so much strife and anger in this day and age. People are spending inordinate amounts of time and energy endorsing popular slogans, political parties, and national movements for or against some agenda or another. To our collective shame, much of it is also stemming from those who claim to be believers, those who say they have trusted in the God of the Bible.

Our age of social unrest is little different than that of the first century believers. Besides being caught up in one of the most revolutionary times in the life of God’s people, they were also subject to political wrangling not only of Rome, but of their own countrymen. Civil disputes, especially among themselves, were rampant; in many respects the nation was on the verge of civil war. The Jewish state had rarely been as factious and divisive politically, and families were pitted against one another.

Yet into this fray, Paul writes that believers should be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another. They should be nice people in a world that is not nice.

Colossians 3:12-13 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.

Critical to this “niceness” is the idea that their forgiveness should be patterned on the forgiveness that God offered them. If we take Paul’s advice at face value and look to God’s precedent and pattern of forgiveness, we may be able to see some ways that we can faithfully represent him as his people in this world.

Psalm 103:8-14 – Yahweh is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.

First of all, God is stated to be abounding in chesed, the Hebrew word for kindness and faithful goodness.
He is slow to anger. His patience is long and he is willing to suspend judgment until absolutely necessary.
Even when his anger is expressed, it is momentary and brief in the overall scope of his dealings with mankind. His anger does not linger with slow-burning constancy.
When he does express his justice at unfaithfulness, it is not as would be deserved; it is comparatively light for the injustice that has been committed.
Most importantly, when he forgives, it is complete. It is illustrated as being as far as east is from west; complete opposites that stretch away infinitely from one another.
Certainly within the family of believers, he chooses to relate to us a compassionate parent, not as an authoritarian stranger. His compassion for the bond of faith is as of a loving parent to his children.
Ultimately, his dealings with mankind are based on the generous and sobering understanding that we are temporary individuals, we are not permanent to this time and place.

If we could learn to review, accept, and enact God’s principles, forgiving others in the same manner he is forgiving of us, imagine how we could be a force for good and “niceness” in the world today. By applying the same type of faithfulness and compassion with others, and certainly among the family of believers, we could have lasting impact in our efforts to reduce strife and anger in our world.

We are all only here for a short amount of time as temporary pin-points of light within an entire galaxy of humanity. Let’s remember we are all dust, extending God’s kindness and mercy, his chesed, while we can.


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.