Re-scripting Your Life, Part 8
In our last post we explored how the power of love being expressed through forgiveness is the necessary first step to having a renewed mind. In this post we will look at the remaining 2 steps in this process.
Step Two: Be Forgiving.
In Jesus’s teaching about forgiveness, He places the bar squarely on the standard of how our Heavenly Father forgives us in the way we are to forgive others. If we are to be forgiven and enjoy the benefits that forgiveness affords us, we MUST be forgiving of all who have offended (sin against) us. What does this look like in practice? Choose to
fore-give before any offense is committed. Looking at forgiveness spelled like this implies that forgiveness is a core belief in our hearts that has already chosen not hold any offense against anyone for any reason before an offense has even occurred. It is deciding before-hand that forgiveness is a gift given by God to be given away to others.
Is there a limit to interpersonal forgiveness? To answer that question you must answer this one: do I want a limit on how much and how often God will forgive me? Of course not! So, there is no limit. Are there conditions for forgiveness? Do we want conditions on the forgiveness that God will offer to us? Of course not. So no conditions. This may sound difficult and burdensome but if we understand the true nature of the power of forgiveness and the healing effects it has on our being, we would make forgiveness a primary aim for every day.
The disciples of Jesus were astounded by His words when He taught them this truth. This was a concept that sounded and seemed to them to be impossible. In fact, after Jesus presented this truth to His disciples they asked Him to increase their faith! This is the only recorded conversation with Jesus and His disciples where this request was made. Jesus’s response to their request must have been equally frustrating. Basically, Jesus said that it is not a matter of needing more faith, but a simple matter of obedience to the will of our Heavenly Father. (see Luke 17 for Jesus’s parable on this subject)
In Luke 11:4, Jesus concludes His short teaching on prayer with this statement: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive everyone who sins against us.” This qualifier, everyone, must have rung in the disciples ears for months. They were raised in an atmosphere where the popular teaching of the day from the rabbis was to “love your neighbor, but hate your enemy” (Matt 5:43). The Talmud of the day also taught that forgiveness did not have to be given after the third offense of the same kind by the same person. So this teaching of Jesus was revolutionary to say the least!
Some time later, Jesus was teaching again about forgiveness in the context of church order and protocol (see Matthew 18) and Peter, probably still mulling over the everyone-every time standard of forgiveness, asked Jesus to explain Himself a bit further. Peter asks Jesus if forgiving a person 7 times for the same offense would qualify as exceeding the righteousness of the religious teachers and thus fulfill the law of the Kingdom (see Matt 5:20).
Jesus’s answer to him goes right back to what He said earlier. Jesus states that Peter must forgive, not 7 times, but 70 x 7 times! Was this just hyperbole for dramatic effect or was Jesus pointing to core truth about forgiveness? 70 x 7 is a large number - 490.
And that number is certainly raising the bar to divine proportions as it related to forgiveness. But for Peter and his fellow Jewish (Hebrew) brothers, this number carries with it the concept of perfection. As was stated earlier, when Jesus instructed that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, the word translated perfect is the word teleios, which means completed, finished, accomplished, full grown. This word teleios in the Greek carries the same meaning as the Hebrew word tamiym.
This is the same word that is used when God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:1) and asked him to walk before God and be perfect. This word is not pointing to behavior as much as it is pointing to the submissive attitude of the heart. To become the “Father of our faith” it is said that Abraham believed God and this belief (obedience) was accounted to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Belief is fully demonstrated or made perfect to the degree of obedience to do as the Father would ask Abraham to do.
Perfection, in actuality, is the state of being fully compliant with the will of God- to be like Him in all of our ways. We are, after all, created in God’s image and likeness, so this should not be as hard as we tend to make it!
But what does the number 490 have to do with all of this? Jesus did not just pull this number out of the air. It had significance to the Hebrew minds that He was addressing. Jesus had already stated that the standard of righteousness was not just outdoing the religious leaders of the day but the standard was being perfect as the Father is perfect. The Hebrew language has an alphanumeric value to its alphabet. This means that every letter has a specific number value that is representative of significant numbers and sets of numbers. We have already discussed that the Hebrew word for perfect is tamiym. When the numeric value of all the letters are added together, guess what the total is? Yes, 490! Jesus was re-stating the same standard of perfection in regards to giving forgiveness as He was when He was talking about loving and blessing our enemies. After all, the only way we can show true, Godly love to an enemy is to give forgiveness as God would give it.
These first two steps in accomplishing forgiveness, to be forgiven completely (perfectly) and to be forgiving completely (perfectly), act as a catalyst to accelerate the wonderful healing effects that forgiveness affords. In essence, we will never come to a place of completion (perfection) as a person unless we abide in a state of forgiven/forgiving. Indeed, in decades of pastoral counseling, I have seen this principle surface countless times- the degree of forgiveness is directly proportional to the amount of freedom a person will experience.
Step Three - Full Reconciliation.
Consider the following verses of Scripture:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Rom. 5:10 NASB
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 2 Cor. 5:18 NASB
The Key word in these verses is the word reconciliation. To reconcile something or someone is to bring back into balance and a state of favor. The word can be used in a physical and natural sense like reconciling a bank account. In this case the word implies that the account owner and the bank are in agreement regarding the amount of money the account holder has on deposit at the bank. If there is a discrepancy it is up to the account holder to bring this to the bank’s attention and look through the record of debits and credits and find the problem. Once the problem is corrected, the account owner and the bank can come back into a state of reconciliation and continue a fruitful working relationship.
When this word is used in a relational sense, the root meaning remains the same in that there must be an accounting of the offenses (sins/debits) that have been committed in the relationship in order for the relationship to come into balance (credit) or a state of favor. In God’s accounting system with humanity, the debit side of the ledger is infinitely longer and larger than the credit side of the ledger and therefore, is in a state of being irreconcilable in human terms. In other words, the difference between what we owe God and our ability to pay it back is infinitely incalculable, and therefore impossible to pay in full.
If our account with God is ever to be balanced, God will have to act independently of our ability to pay and willingly wipe out the debit side of the ledger to zero. This would be an amazingly generous act of mercy on God’s part and would put us in a state of balance the moment we accept this generous offer. If we refuse the offer of mercy then we have willingly and knowingly decided to keep the debit on the ledger and take on the responsibility of paying it back or just going into default and live a life of hiding and avoiding God. This is the foundation of a life of shame that will keep us from the life of freedom that the human heart so desperately desires.
There is one more piece to God’s system of reconciliation that must be understood and accepted if the full benefits of reconciliation are to be realized. When God releases His mercy to wipe out the debt of our sin He also takes into account the debt that we will incur in the future. He not only zeros out the debt but he deposits His entire wealth and worth on the credit side of the ledger. This credit is always exceeding, above and beyond the amount of the debt so we are always in a state of reconciliation with God. We call this credit accounting, grace. Grace is given to us to keep us in a state of credit, or favor with God. Only at this point can we accurately say that we have been reconciled to God. The following verses sum up this amazing gift:
But God , is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:4-7 NLT
What an amazing display of God’s love for humanity! But there is more… God, in His infinite wisdom, has designed this process with us as not only receivers of reconciliation but also givers of reconciliation. We first are reconciled to God and then we are reconciled to the people we are with. This is the place where the healing in our relationship with God releases our inner personal healing and the healing of our interpersonal relationships. This is what being sanctified entirely- body, spirit, and soul- looks like (see I Thes. 5:23).
In our next post we will be ready to slip into our new garments of righteousness through a revelational understanding of transformation. Stay tuned and tune in!
by Pastor Jim Anan