FORGIVENESS AS AN ATTRIBUTE OF LOVE
In the Sixth Nazarene Principle, Yahshua prayed,
Luke 11:4 ...And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
Or, as Matthew the tax-collector puts it,
Matthew 6:12 12 Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
The whole prayer with its godly appeal breathes of brotherhood and fellowship with the use of the words “our” and “us.”
In this request there are two perspectives:
It is an admission or confession of one’s own sins as well as the sins of others. In the Christian Bible, these take two forms: personal, as in offences or sins against your person; and, material or financial, as in actual material debts. Actually, in the handful of occurrences of the Greek word group «opheilemata» or “debt” in the Gospels, it is virtually always a financial one – Matthew 18:24, 28, 30, 32, 34; Luke 7:41; 16:5, 7
Judging from what the Nazarene taught in Luke 6:30-35, the main thrust of this forgiveness in the Sixth Nazarene Principle is a financial obligation. We have to go outside the Gospels and the Nazarene’s teachings to find other types of “debt.” – Romans 1:14; 4:4; 13:7, 8; 15:1, 27; 1 Corinthians 7:3.
The first commentary on the Lord’s Prayer and its Sixth Principle was provided by the Nazarene himself, for as soon as he has finished the prayer, his very next words are:
Matthew 6:14-15 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father shall also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither shall your Father forgive your trespasses.
Paul echoes this in his own commentary:
Colossians 3:13 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other if anyone has a complaint against another, indeed, as Messiah forgave you so also should you.
The word <forgive> occurs over 50 times in the Gospels. It is a theme word of the Nazarene and the idea of forgiveness appears several times in his parables. (Matthew 18:23-25; Luke 7:41-50) The Greek word «apsiemi» literally means to “let go” or “release” from an obligation or debt. It is impossible to separate the word “forgive” from the word “love.” In Paul’s definition of love in
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, there are several expressions that would include forgiveness: <‘Love does not pursue its own things. It is not easily provoked. It quietly covers all things.’>
One might wonder why the Nazarene opted for the word “forgive” instead of, “love.” First, “forgive” may be a more concrete word whereas “love” is abstract enough to carry several meanings and applications. The Greek word generally used for “love” in these contexts is the well-known «agape». This word is principled love based on two things: motive and principle. Now both motive and principle can be in error and so the «agape» may be wrongly placed. It is hard to do that with the word “forgive.” Either one forgives or does not. Either one is forgiven or not. Let us examine this matter of forgiveness in the Sixth Nazarene Principle from two aspects.
OUR NEED FOR GOD’S FORGIVENESS
The idea of needing Yahweh’s forgiveness is not a new one, for the Psalms are filled with such requests, particularly on the part of David. (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51) In the days of the Nazarene, self-righteous religious leaders were want to admit any such thing and viewed themselves as perfectly correct and therefore superior to the general crowd. They viewed common folk as the sinners. (Luke 18:9-14)
To admit the need of forgiveness means to acknowledge sin and violation of the law, for “sin” is lawlessness. (1 John 3:5) It requires a bent of mind that is willing to change actions, attitudes, and speech. This change of mind is called “repentance.” Repentance, if genuine, is followed by fruitage or conversion, a turning around to a new and better course. (Matthew 3:8)
No Jew had any difficulty in understanding what sin was and what the Law said, for it was right there in the books of Moses and the Ten Commandments. Paul discussed it this way, <‘You, the one preaching, “Do not steal,” do you steal? You, the one saying, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You, the one who says he hates idols, do you rob temples?’ > – Romans 2:21, 22. Sin is heightened when hypocrisy is involved. (Matthew 7:5; 23:28; Luke 12:1)
The Book of Romans is the key source dealing with mankind’s sinful condition due to inherited imperfection from Adam’s one act of disobedience. (Romans chapters 2, 5) Paul declares the miserable and callused state of mankind, a slave to sin no matter how hard one tries to escape the practice of sin, or attain perfect righteousness. Paul cries out as a representative member of mankind, and particularly Israel,
Romans 7:24-25 24 Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks to Elohim, through יהושע Messiah our Master!
Try as he may, this righteous man was unable to attain perfection. He admits he struggles with habitual failure:
Romans 7:15-17 15 For what I work, I know not. For what I wish, that I do not practise, but what I hate, that I do. 16 But if I do what I do not wish, I agree with the Torah that it is good. 17 And now, it is no longer I that work it, but the sin dwelling in me.
THE SIN OF COMMISSION
There are those sins of commission which are direct violations of Yahweh’s commandments regarding sexual morality, theft, lying, slander, covetousness, and greed. Most cultures, no matter how primitive, carry similar bans or taboos. The Nazarene gives his own list of those attitudes and actions which spiritually defile an individual in Matthew 15:18–19 and Mark 17:20-23. They include:
●Wicked reasonings or suspicions (Mark 7:21; Romans 1:21)
●Murders (Exodus 20:13; Job 24:14; Matthew 5:21;19:18; 23.31; Acts 8.1; 9:1; 1 Timothy 1:9; James 4:2)
●Adulteries (Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 6:32; Jeremiah 5:7; Matthew 5:27, 28, 32; 19:18; Romans 13:9)
●Fornications (Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18;10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3)
●Thieveries (Exodus 20:15; Matthew 19:18; John 10:10; Ephesians 4:28; Titus 2:10)
●False testimonies or slander (Deuteronomy 19:18; Proverbs 6:19;12:17;14:5; 19:5, 9; Mark 10:19)
●Blasphemies or abusive speech (Matthew 12:31; Luke 22:65; Colossians 3:8; 2 Peter 2:10, 12)
●Covetings or greed (Proverbs 20:21; Luke 12:15; Acts 20:33; Romans 1:29; 7:7, 8; 13:9; 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11; 6:10; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; James 4:2)
- Acts of wickedness (Job 34:8; Psalm 45:7; 141:4; Proverbs 4:17; 11:5; 16:12; Ezekiel 3:19; 18:27; 33:19; Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:22)
- Deceit (Proverbs 14:25; 26:26; John 1:47; Romans 1:29; 3:13; 1 Peter 2:1)
- Loose conduct (Psalm 26:10; Proverbs 10:23; Romans 1313; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3)
- Envy (Psalm 106:16; Mark 15:10; Romans 1:29; Philippians 1:15; 1 Timothy 6:4; Titus 3:3)
- Haughtiness (Proverbs 8:13; 16:18; 29:33; 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:4; James 4:16)
- Foolishness (Proverbs 12:23; 13:16; 14:8, 17, 29; 15:2; 18:13; 22:15; 26:11; Ecclesiastes 10:1; 1 Corinthians 3:19)
Paul also gives a list similar to the Nazarene’s when he evaluates the condition of those who have turned away from Yahweh:
Romans 1:24-32 24 Therefore Elohim gave them up to uncleanness in the lust of their hearts, to disrespect their bodies among themselves, 25 who changed the truth of Elohim into the falsehood, and worshipped and served what was created rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Aměn. 26 Because of this Elohim gave them over to degrading passions. For even their women exchanged natural relations for what is against nature, 27 and likewise, the men also, having left natural relations with woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing indecency, and receiving back the reward which was due for their straying. 28 And even as they did not think it worthwhile to possess the knowledge of Elohim, Elohim gave them over to a worthless mind, to do what is improper, 29 having been filled with all unrighteousness, whoring, wickedness, greed, evil; filled with envy, murder, fighting, deceit, evil habits; whisperers, 30 slanderers, haters of Elohim, insolent, proud, boasters, devisers of evils, disobedient to parents, 31 without discernment, covenant breakers, unloving, unforgiving, ruthless; 32 who, though they know the righteousness of Elohim, that those who practise such deserve death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practise them.
In Romans chapters two and three Paul makes it clear that these very sins, no matter in what generation of history they occurred, will not escape Yahweh judgment. There is another type of sin, however.
THE SIN OF OMISSION
There are sins of omission stressed by the Nazarene in matters of human decency. The parable of the sheep and goats, which describes the Judgment at the «parousia» shown in Matthew 25:31-46, is an example of this kind of sin. The “goats” are guilty of failing to act in a humane way toward persons in need of warmth, food, drink, hospitality, care of the sick, and visits to Messiah’s brothers in prison.
As if commenting on this parable, James writes regarding this sin of omission:
James 2:15, 16; 4.17 15 And if a brother or sister is naked and in need of daily food, 16 but one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” but you do not give them the bodily needs, what use is it? 4:17 To him, then, who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
The beloved Apostle John writes in a similar vein,
1 John 3:17 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his tender affections from him, how does the love of Elohim stay in him?
‘ So, whereas many a Believer has been heard saying, “As long as I don’t hurt my neighbour,“ such a hypocrite is guilty by the sin of omission. There are many great commandments which many dread to break but think nothing of ignoring the plight of those in need. This is not the Nazarene way. Such a disciple ought to spend a couple of months getting reacquainted with the Mountain Teachings of the Nazarene (Matthew chapters 5,6 and 7) and then make a concerted effort to walk daily in this way.
Such an attitude of love and forgiveness may be daunting to a modern reader so used to the mutual greed and self-centeredness in a materialistic and Me-First environment. Not only has Christianity drifted from the Nazarene’s teaching on what could be called doctrinal matters, it has also left those Nazarene Principles which appeal to love and kindness and forgiveness. If you cannot find it in your heart to change your character and personality to fit the requirements of the Nazarene then you best try some other path where your selfishness and greedy lifestyle will be accepted as the norm. The Messiah cannot reside in the same heart where lust, greed, selfishness, egocentricity, or deceit, have already taken up residence.
“Sin” is a word that has come into much disuse. Doctor Freud eradicated it and the modern religions of the world have behaved in such dastardly fashion they can no longer speak of morals and commandments and sin without extreme embarrassment and chuckles from the audience. In this modern period, there is every tendency to blame others for our own sins, so certainly there is no need to ask Yahweh’s forgiveness, for we are not at fault. Because you came from such a dysfunctional family, or were abused, or suffered some terrible social injustice, or were born into abject poverty, or eat an improper diet — you remain completely innocent of any wrong. Everyone is wrong, but me! This attitude of blaming others is not new. In began with Adam who blamed both his wife and Yahweh for his own failure. (Genesis 3:12-13) Another aspect of the Sixth Nazarene Principle will demonstrate how to gain Yahweh’s forgiveness.
A WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE
We have seen how love and forgiveness go and in hand. When we forgive others there is a sudden rush of pleasant relief, an exhilarating sense of our own forgiveness, as if there were more “credit” to the forgiver than the forgiven.
Read the parable in Matthew 18:21-35 and the Nazarene’s answer to Peter’s question, <How many times must I forgive my brother?> Such a powerful illustration to drive the point home regarding the need to forgive! The Nazarene summarizes it, <Just so my heavenly Father will treat you if you do not forgive everyone in your heart of hearts.>
Another parable and the circumstances in which it is given is among the most heart-rendering the Nazarene ever gave. It is recorded in Luke 7:36-50 where we see the Nazarene reclining at the table with a Jewish Pharisee and likely other guests. During the supper, a notorious woman enters and begins to bathe the Nazarene’s feet with her profuse tears and then wipe them with her hair. The self-righteous Jewish rabbi thinks to himself, <This One if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.> There may have been a look of disgust, for Yahshua responds by relating a parable:
Luke 7:41 41 A certain creditor had two debtors. The one owed five hundred denarii*, and the other fifty. Footnote: *Roman monetary unit. 42 And when they were unable to repay, he forgave them both. Which of them, then, shall love him more?” 43 And Shim‛on answering, said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.
Acknowledging this to be correct, the Nazarene turned to the woman and continued
44 “Do you see this woman? I came into your house – you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wetted My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 “You gave Me no kiss, but she has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 “Therefore I say to you, her many sins have been forgiven, because she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, he loves little.
This knowledge of our debt to Yahweh, which amounts to a figure we can never repay ourselves, and which he is willing to forgive upon our own repentance and conversion, ought to move us to take a kindly and forgiving view of others. The person who carries Messiah with him into his daily life will discover how easy this becomes when self is pushed into the background. When the focus is taken off self and turned onto others, forgiveness becomes a natural reaction to any offense experienced throughout the day. Forgiveness breeds tolerance and tolerance breeds patience, which is tendered with a warm smile.
I AM SORRY
There is the need to learn to say, “I am sorry. Forgive me.” Not a, “Okay, okay. I’m sorry. There! Are you satisfied?” Just as forgiveness needs to be genuine, repentance also needs to be from the heart and not forced out begrudgingly.
Luke 17:3-4 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day comes back to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
And Paul later writes, breathing the same fresh air from the Nazarene’s mouth:
Colossians 3:12-14 12 Therefore, as chosen ones of Elohim, set-apart and beloved, put on compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, patience, 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other if anyone has a complaint against another, indeed, as Messiah forgave you so also should you. 14 But above all these put on love, which is a bond of the perfection.
If you would live the “perfect life” practice the above for one day. Set aside a single day a week to become this kind and forgiving person. “This is my day to become more Messiah-like,” tell yourself. Make forgiveness a daily pattern of your life: at home, at work, at the market, on the road, at school. Remember, today may be the final page in your own Book of Records, that log Yahweh is keeping upon which He will render a decision through His own Son on Judgment Day. (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12-14) Remember, also, the Nazarene taught,
Matthew 7:1-2 1 Do not judge, lest you be judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged. And with the same measure you use, it shall be measured to you.
The measuring tape you use with others will be the same one used to measure you on that Day. How happy you will be when this “last page” of your personal record is filled with forgiveness. Make it your prayer every morning that this new page be one you are confident Yahweh will approve. Pray continually, “Forgive me, Father, just as I forgive others.”
After the model prayer of the Nazarene, seek Yahweh forgiveness. Freely admit your sins and failings to Him, begging forgiveness, while you assure Him, this same kind of forgiveness you have already exercised in behalf of your neighbour. Then you can sleep in peace and walk in daily life with the sure knowledge you stand forgiven before Yahweh. (Romans 8:35-39)
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Used by permission.