“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O LORD, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:3-5)
Forgiveness does not mean ignoring the offense or treating it as though it didn’t happen.
Forgiveness is when the offended party suffers the consequences of the offense.
We see this in action in many aspects of life, such as in:
- Banking laws – transferring a debt that is owed by the debtor to the to someone else who pays what is owed, or assumes the debt, also known as “imputing” the debt. For example, it is estimated that in that one banking crisis tax payers covered $8.5 trillion in bailouts to banks and insurers.
- Judicial laws – transferring the punishment imposed on an offender to an innocent person who pays the fine or serves the time.
- Personal relationships
We struggle with forgiving those who have hurt us because we feel, justifiably I would say, outraged that the offender gets to shrug off responsibility instead of admitting and repairing the harm that was done to us. Intuitively we understand that when we forgive, we cancel the debt owed to us, and we are left bearing the burden of that offense through emotional suffering, physical suffering, financial costs, damaged reputation, loss of social standing, loss of hopes and dreams for the future, all we’ve invested into that future of our youth, our hard work, our money, that we’ll never be able to get back.
I once counseled a woman whose boyfriend had insinuated himself into her life over a period of months, charming her into more and more involvement until his true psychopath personality could finally erupt. When I saw her she was recovering from broken bones from his most recent and most vicious beating. In retaliation for being told to leave he had utterly destroyed her house by ripping out all the plumbing and electrical and smashing all the windows, drywall, floors, doors and appliances. (The photo represents the damage done, but is not an actual photo of the woman or her home, nor does it fully show the extent of the damage.)
He had wrecked her car. He had terrorized the other employees at her workplace, triggering the loss of her job. She was left to suffer the consequences all alone. She had no homeowner’s insurance for the property damage because it was deliberately caused by an occupant who had lived there long enough to be legally classified as a resident. She had no insurance coverage for her medical bills because she had lost her job. She had no income or outlook for another decent job. Inconceivably, she had no recourse even to have him arrested. She had allowed him to get away with increasingly violent behavior for too long, lied to the authorities too many times. She had long since allowed herself to be alienated from former friends by her psychopath control freak boyfriend, she was now homeless, unemployable with a mortgage to pay on a condemned property, forced into bankruptcy with consequent loss of credit rating, terrified of encountering him again.
And Jesus said,
“if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
That just doesn’t seem right!
But in fact, whether or not she felt like it, her best course of action was to forgive her abuser. Her mental, emotional, physical, social – and because we are all interconnected body, soul and spirit – her spiritual health depended on it. How so?
As long as she chose not to forgive him, she was holding on to the debt he owed her. Can we not recognize that meant she was holding on to a relationship with him?
“You owe me! You need to change your behavior, your attitude, your beliefs to make things right with me!”
Isn’t this how marriage counseling usual goes? And goes and goes around in a circle without ever coming to a resolution as to who will change?
Think about your own experiences with unforgiveness. I know from my own personal experience that brooding over injustice, regret, insistence on “It shouldn’t have been like that!” trapped me in a pit of despair, deep depression, physical deterioration, social restrictions, terribly poor judgment, and a cycle of failed attempts to restore the unforgiven relationship through a series of duplicate and therefore likewise bad and failed relationships. When my divorce lawyer asked “Why did you ever marry _________?” I unwittingly blurted out “Because I wanted ____ to love me, or at least a close facsimile.”
Christianity’s most evident loss of power to overcome cycles of sin in individuals and society can be directly linked to its failure to understand forgiveness.
Christianity’s teaching that salvation is from punishment for sin in hell by believing that we are forgiven because Jesus is the Son of God who died to take our spiritual punishment is such a massively oversimplified dogma of the entirety of God’s work in mankind. It’s not about us rejoining our loved ones in heaven and living our lives forever in pure delight!
Singularity Creator YHVH created mankind to be in relationship with him!
Our ancestor’s disconnect from YHVH was passed down – likely as an inevitable epigenetic trait – by all subsequent generations of humans as a condition known as the sin nature. While sin is most apparent in the damage done to other humans, the greatest damage is actually done to YHVH “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things.” (Hebrews 2:10)
We are so oblivious to his primacy in our lives. We treat God as if he’s just a vending machine, dispensing on demand, and his forgiveness as just another option like a candy bar. In reality, all the damage we’ve done through the sins we’ve committed against his Creation has blown back on him.
The first step in restoring a relationship with YHVH is to relinquish reliance on all other relationships for life’s needs.
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Wow! What a horrible rule! How did Christianity ever get off the ground with that prime directive?
First, let’s ensure we’re all defining the key word “hate” the way it was meant to be defined.
Note the comparative meaning of 3404 (miséō) which centers in moral choice, elevating one value over another.
Rejecting one in favor of the other.
So we can conceptualize Yeshua’s instructions as being the same as those for marriage. We don’t abandon our family and friends, but a good marriage identifies as so united with the spouse that we reject all other relationships that would pull the spouses apart, or harm the other spouse.
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:28-32)
We understand that a marriage can’t thrive when a spouse allows a relationship with a parent, or employer, or close friend to take precedence over the spousal relationship. Just so with our relationship with God. And here is where our forgiveness of other’s sins against us come in.
As one’s relationship with a righteous God strengthens, one’s thoughts, ways, and sensitivity to right and wrong becomes more and more at odds with one’s human relationships. Our actions reflect, and shape, opposing relationships. Spouses, children, work associates, friends, are discomfited by our evolving standards, our failure to fit in with their comfort zone whether its a church denomination’s unbiblical practices or cheating on taxes or gossiping about the coworkers or… God is not welcome in society, and neither will anyone be who identifies with him.
“if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” (I Corinthians 7:15)
We will find ourselves rejected. It can’t be helped. We either
- accept the losses of marriages, family relationships, jobs, friendships – paying the price, i.e. forgiving those who unjustly harmed us,
- or we capitulate, back down, modify our standards to fit in and sacrificing a relationship with righteous God to maintain those relationships.
Now does what YHVH’s Savior declared make sense?
Giving and receiving forgiveness is the ultimate soul changer. It is a human thought process by which destructive elements of the soul’s memory are eliminated, like a computer’s ROM is cleared of malware.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness…
- For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me….
- Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
- wash / vigorously scrub me, and I shall be whiter than snow...
- Submit to painful processes to repair the damage done to the body and soul from consuming and engaging in harmful and filthy habits. Alcohol and heroin are not the only things that trigger withdrawals. Any pleasure-inducing habit is hard to break, and relapses are more common that successful rehab, witness unsuccessful diets.
- Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
- This gets to the source of the problem.
- Cast me not away from thy presence;
- acknowledges the prerogatives of an existing relationship, in God’s case, as our Creator,
- and take not thy holy spirit from me…uphold me with thy free spirit.
- This is the ultimate “higher power” that succeeds in overcoming all other drives…
- The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
- The humility required to admit we can’t do it alone, we need help.” (Psalm 51:1-17)
The man who wrote that prayer was King David, notorious for adultery and murder just to have sex with a woman who caught his eye.
But David didn’t only asked God for forgiveness, he also asked the woman he had wronged for forgiveness.
Most sinners shift the blame, claiming exculpatory circumstances with claims like “It’s her fault, she made me do it, she shouldn’t have tempted me…” But David accepted responsibility and, highly unusual for a man in a powerful position, made reparations to the woman he had wronged.
Bathsheba was an innocent victim who suffered extreme abuse at the hands of a respected political and religious figure who betrayed her submission to his authority and used his power to deny justice. And then to be forced to live with the abusive, lying, deceiving, man who destroyed your life? It would be insufferable. To really feel how this impacted Bathsheba, consider the accounts of the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, poignantly communicated in the book As We Forgive.
And then, one night, David comes to Bathsheba, saying in whatever way he communicated it, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” She could look into his eyes and see his agony, his soul poured out onto death, his sincere remorse and desperate need for her forgiveness.
Bathsheba had a choice to make – justice, or mercy.
Justice would salvage at least her reputation and financial stability by demanding public acknowledgement that she was innocent, that he had raped, or at the very least, abused his position of power over her, and force restitution.
While mercy, through forgiveness, would cost her dearly. For the rest of her life Bathsheba would bear the humiliation of an irreparably destroyed reputation as she was falsely convicted in the court of public opinion of seducing the nation’s hugely popular rock star politician. She would feel a sense of betrayal to her first husband Uriah, who had loved her with a total devotion as his only wife. She would experience loneliness, shunning, and outright hatred from the other, highly competitive wives in the king’s harem pushing their own and their son’s interests. She would find it impossible to assuage her heartbreak of losing her first born son due to continued involvement with the man who caused her trauma. This was not an easy choice for her to make.
Mr. Handsome Smart Alec “I’m too sexy for my shirt” pseudo-scientist social influencer demonstrates his ignorance and/or deception in every one of his memes. This is a rhetorical question from an academic who gets paid to propagate propaganda for the elite, not an actual intelligent question for thoughtful consideration.
The idea that deadly cancer can be cured without a major disruption to the system is, from an objective point of view, a very pleasant idea, but a fatal one, and so it is with sin. Sin, like cancer, is not something that can be dismissed with a nod and a wave of the hand, like burping in public. Sin, like cancer, is a deeply unpleasant condition requiring a deeply unpleasant remedy involving suffering because IT IS A MALIGNANT FORCE OF DEATH THAT HAS TO BE FOUGHT.
I met a police officer who spent years tracking pedophiles online by pretending to be a pre-teen target (back in the days of chat rooms instead of videos). He was haggard and clearly in a terrible unhealthy condition. When I asked him he admitted that the stress of the chase and the vicarious sexual exploitation he experienced from sexual predator had taken a massive toll on his emotional, relationship, social, and physical life. But, for him, the lives he had saved were worth the life he lost.
How many lives have you saved, Richard Dawkins?
If Bathsheba had chosen to spare her own suffering by withholding forgiveness and instead demand justice, could David have reclaimed his life and lived out his destiny? Or would it have been the end of him, and the new nation?
I don’t think it was enough for David to hear from the prophet Nathan that God had forgiven him. I think we humans require experiencing forgiveness from one human to another, with our senses – to see the change in expression on the face of the forgiver, to hear the words “I forgive you”, to feel the hug, to smell the skin your face is pressed against, to taste the tears of reconciliation.
Is it possible that people have a hard time believing that God can forgive them because we have so little experience of human forgiveness? After all, we are designed to have God’s likeness, and our impression of what God is like is informed by our knowledge of human relationships.
Is it possible that our world is in such a mess because humans refuse to forgive?
Is this another explanation for “ if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”? Because when refuse to forgive we are sabotaging the whole process?