In my last post, we continued our new mini-series on the character traits that Yeshua expects us to possess concerning others by exploring His command to be loving towards our enemies and turning the other cheek. In this post, we are going to be looking at forgiveness and reconciliation.
Concerning Others ~ Part C
“Let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
“Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. Also, if seven times in one day he sins against you, and seven times he comes to you and says, ‘I repent,’ you are to forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4).
Forgiveness is another important part of God’s nature, and it is not surprising that Yeshua requires it of us. We cannot strive to be Messiah-like without also learning to forgive as He did. Right to the end, even while nailed upon the execution stake, some of His last words were, “Father, forgive them; they don’t understand what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
“Then Kefa came up and said to him, ‘Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ answered Yeshua, ‘but seventy times seven!’” (Mathew 18:21-22) At that time in history, the Rabbis had taught that you only had to forgive a person three times, so Kefa was being more than generous in asking his question. However, the Messiah responded with hyperbole that Kefa should forgive four hundred and ninety-nine times. Obviously, not even the most ardent person will keep that detailed of a record of hurts. Yeshua’s clear intent is that we are always to forgive those who sin against us. The Lord will take any vengeance that may be required.
Yeshua knows forgiveness can set us free from rage, bitterness, pride, and hatred toward others. As long as we refuse to forgive others we are in bondage and we are refusing to let God use us in any significant way in the life of that person.
Unforgiveness allows the root of bitterness to grow in our hearts and minds and prevent us from pursuing shalom and holiness (see Hebrews12:14-15). Sha’ul reminds us that Yeshua entrusted us with a special ministry, a ministry of reconciliation; and as Yeshua’s ambassadors, we are able to help facilitate the reconciling of people with God. As long as we are at odds with people and carry unforgiveness in our hearts, we are not in shalom with God and we cannot help others find God either.
Everything is from God. He reconciled us to Himself through Yeshua and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Sha’ul says, “It is all from God, who through the Messiah has reconciled us to himself and has given us the work of that reconciliation, which is that God in the Messiah was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors of the Messiah; in effect, God is making his appeal through us. What we do is appeal on behalf of the Messiah, ‘Be reconciled to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
Another aspect of forgiveness is perhaps even more serious. In Yeshua’s model prayer He says, “Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us … For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.” (Mathew 6:12, 14-15) And in Mark 11:25 Jesus instructs us, “When you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive your offenses.”
In short, we have the ability to prevent God’s forgiveness of our own sins if we refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us. This is not an easy concept to understand. We were forgiven when we gave our lives over to Yeshua, but our subsequent sinning can still cause barriers in our relationship to God. When we carry sin in our hearts, the Spirit is not free to accomplish His will in us because we are holding on to things that are offensive to God. When we forgive others, we also remove the barriers so the Spirit can work in our own hearts and lives.
Application: You may have painful memories in your past or scars that you carry with you from past relationships or situations. Ask God now to help you let these things go, to help you release them into His hands and take care of them in His way. Ask Him to give you freedom from the bondage in which they have kept you these long years. Forgive and you will feel the wave of freedom wash over you as the Spirit refreshes your soul with His presence. Forgive and you will release the Spirit to be at home in your heart and not be impeded by the bitterness and unforgiveness that clutters your heart. Forgive so you can be at peace and not let anything prevent you from ministering to those to whom God has placed in your pathway.
5. Go and Be Reconciled with Others
“So if you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift.” (Mathew 5:23-24)
This command shows that God prefers reconciliation over worship. In fact, our worship, our praise, and our tithes are not acceptable to God until we are reconciled with our brother or sister in Yeshua. This reflects the Yochanan’s later writings, where he tells us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if a person does not love his brother, whom he has seen, then he cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) To say we love God and want to worship Him while maintaining unresolved issues with one of His children is impossible. We show our love to God by loving His people and treating them as He would treat them. To allow an issue to be unresolved between us and others shows contempt for God and His desire for us to be at peace with one another.
Scripture tell us:
- “Keep pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.“ (Hebrews 12:14)
- “So then, let us pursue the things that make for shalom and mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19)
- “If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people.” (Romans 12:18).
We cannot go merrily into His presence ignoring the fact that we have hurt those He loves. Imagine trying to gain favor with a father after you have needlessly harmed his child. Reparations must be made and relationships restored before we come before our Father if we have hurt one of His children.
The pursuit of peace is a worthy goal for every Believer! Over and over the Brit Hadashah describes God as a God of peace (see Romans 15:33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Philippines 4:7; and 1 Thessalonians 5:23). He wants to see His people living at peace with one another. It is simply unacceptable for us to ignore our responsibility to our fellow man while we attempt to give our lives to God for His service. God looks at the heart, not the lips. Our actions speak louder than our words. If we are not actively promoting peace, building up one another, and doing everything in our power to repair broken relationships, we will find our worship empty and cold and God very quiet indeed.
Application: Do you have outstanding issues with anyone? Does anyone have an outstanding issue with you? God will not allow you to pretend to worship Him if you are not making the effort to be reconciled with others. Is there a phone call or a letter you need to write before your next worship service so that your worship will be acceptable to God? Take a moment to reflect on your relationships with others. Are there those you have offended inadvertently or deliberately, or those you know who have not forgiven you for some offense and still hold grudges against you? The purpose of this command is not only to demonstrate love but also to remove anything that could prevent experiencing the full meaning of worship toward God. Make a conscious effort with your spouse, children, close friends, or family to ask them specifically if you have done anything that has offended them, and beg their forgiveness if there is. Unfulfilled promises, inadvertent remarks, unjustified criticism, impatience, anger, and pride can leave scars on others. Make it right as soon as possible.
Remember always the words of Yeshua: “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (Yochanan 14:15)
In my next post, we will conclude this mini-series on the character traits that Yeshua expects us to possess concerning others by looking at the Golden Rule.