51 Weeks Past the Cross – At Forgiveness
By Terrie C
Matthew 6:14 – For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
*Note from author: If you read my post last week, you know that the following post has been “on a shelf.” It was finished in my eyes, but I received no sense of release from God to post it. I never post until He grants that release. I knew He had more to show me, and He did! I know now why I had to wait. The person I most struggle with forgiving will be passing from this world very, very soon. Apparently, I needed to experience just what I’m going through right now before I could post. That’s how God rolls… I’m so glad I waited! ~Terrie C
That little word “if” has always caught me with its enormity. When I stood under the “just believe and be saved” doctrine, the word “if” always caused me concern. I was taught to overlook it, to not give that little word any weight. Here on this side of the cross, though, “if” is important! It’s a condition to a promise. According to the verse above, to be forgiven, I must forgive others. Here’s another from the book of Luke: …forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. I could add more verses from the writings that call themselves the “new testament” on the topic of forgiving others, but I think you could bring them to mind yourself, because the doctrine is so stressed in Christianity and in Messianic Christianity. Instead, let’s take a look at forgiving others through the lens of Scripture, the Tanakh. Is forgiving others a condition to being forgiven ourselves? What did God say about it?
The Tanakh, commonly referred to as, the “Old Testament” has well over a hundred verses regarding forgiveness. In almost all of them, it’s attributed to God and not man. Joseph forgave his brothers, but never are we told that it was a condition of his own forgiveness. King David also forgave, but again, it was not a condition for him to be “saved”. If we read the Psalms carefully, it’s easy to see that David wasn’t forgiving toward all of his enemies. In fact, he asks God to destroy them! Christianity brushes this off as the “old way” but don’t we already know that God’s ways never change?
Where does forgiveness fit in as we go about walking in love and shining God’s light? Must I forgive everyone who has sinned against me to be forgiven my own sin, as Christianity teaches? If I were to say to you, “Who can you not forgive in your own life?” I’m thinking a person would jump to your mind. Someone jumps into my mind, too. Is the kind of forgiveness humans grant the same kind of forgiveness that The Almighty grants us? It’s a given that ours is different. HaShem is perfect, we aren’t. I’m a fairly easy-going person. It’s hard to offend me, and I hold nothing someone says against them. I understand all too well how easy our mouths can trip us up. There are a few people that I do hold something against, though. What they did went well beyond hurting my feelings or ruining my day. These are the people I dragged into Scripture to examine my lack of forgiveness under this new lens, and to see how it relates to my own relationship and atonement with God. I have to admit that the answer wasn’t immediately clear to me. I see so much grace and mercy in the Tanakh; yet I also see a hatred of evil and the consequences for evil acts. I knew I’d have to dig deeper. The first thing I had to do was get the definition right.
The dictionary says:
a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>
b : to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
a : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon <forgive one’s enemies
Biblically speaking, it is also a verb:
Nasa or Nasah:
Lighten a load, to lift
We all know that the load we lighten when we forgive is our own. To carry another’s sin with us through our day is heavy! The person I struggle most with forgiving allowed my childhood to be a nightmare. The person who was supposed to nourish and encourage me broke me instead, leaving me with invisible wounds that would fester for years to come. For so very long, I carried that heavy burden, trying to disguise it with men, alcohol, drugs… anything that made it feel lighter, even for a moment. It was a failure of epic proportion! Then, when I started walking with God, I felt like an epic failure for not reconciling with that person, ready to let the past go and begin a brand new future. According to the new testament, because of this, God wouldn’t be able to forgive me my sin. Never mind that they also taught I’d enter the kingdom on Yeshua’s merit, and not my own (a contradiction in itself). I was so confused, and remained that way for ten years! But I’m not confused anymore!
Looking through my new lens at forgiveness, I see that, by definition, I have forgiven the person I most needed to. I lifted that load off myself when I placed them in God’s hands. The anger is gone, the resentment is gone, and I believe God took what was done to me and has brought much good from it. Because of my childhood, I am strong, nonviolent, and determined to survive anything I must. These are all great qualities! The lingering effects that aren’t so great, such as a skewed vision of what love looks like, a slowness to trust what seems good, and a horrible reaction to any kind of violence, will be transformed through prayer and Scripture study. Only The Almighty can do those things!
Did my newfound forgiveness send me rushing to the bedside of the one who is now counting their last days in this world? It did not. Scripture says we will reap what we’ve sown in this life, and the person I’ve struggled with forgiving is not exempt. They are where their footsteps led them, as am I. The seeds they sowed so long ago have harvests so great, I see it in my grandchildren’s lives! Brokenness is passed from generation to generation until someone will stand up and say “It stops here!” I’ve had to dig those seeds out of myself and plant a whole new crop. I am the one who stood. My seeds will yield a harvest, too. One that points to God, and not to brokenness.
What the forgiveness did do, is it allows me to pray earnestly for that person. That God will handle them with mercy and lovingkindness as they account for their actions in this life, and He will assign them residence in the world to come after He’s dealt with the cost of their sin.
Looking at forgiveness through the lens of Tanakh, I can see that God forgiving me is not contingent on my forgiving others. My forgiving others is a lightening of my own load. God’s forgiveness of my sin is contingent upon my repentance and my devotion to His Ways. The Tanakh says that over and over. Knowing this, I am able to have a healthier perspective about forgiveness altogether. When people commit a direct offense against me, the weight is off me as soon as I give it to God. In some instances, forgiveness will mean that a relationship is restored. In other instances, it will not be. And that’s okay. It is a new testament concept that we should allow someone to continue breaking us, to turn the other cheek, and to forgive “70 times 70 times.” How many times should a wife be beat and still stay? Shall we invite a rapist back to our dinner table? Should we keep handing our heart to someone intent on breaking it? Of course not! It’s just common sense to know where a line should be drawn. Forgiveness does not always mean restoration. In Tanakh, those out to harm us are called our enemies, and we are never told to allow them to conquer us or that they should have authority over us. Scripture tells us to choose life. Abuse and evil are not attributes of life. We must keep those who practice them far away away from us! Even after we’ve forgiven them.