Forgive & Forget?

Q. In Mt 5:24 What if the brother does not want to make peace? I was going to tell my friend that he is not sincere enough when he was trying to make peace with his co-worker who insists on not accepting his apologies. Should he go on trying to make peace with different methods?

In Mt 18:21-22 A sister in Christ says to forgive because God would revenge for us (Rom 12:19). I think when we forgive, we do not want God’s wrath to be on that person either, right? But I imagine eventually God would avenge because He is just. That means our blessing and prayer would not be effective, unless things happen like in Jobs 42?

Lk 6:27-28 Is it right to forgive but not to forget? I think when we forgive, we should try to forget. It would make it ridiculous to ask us to give an example from our experience in following Jesus’ advise to forgive (in a group meeting?

A. In Mt 5:23 the brother has something against you, i.e. you have offended him, so the onus is on you to make reconciliation. If he does not want to be reconciled, then the procedure in Mt 18:15-17 kicks in, but with a difference. The difference is that there your brother sins against you and he is at fault. You are not the guilty party but nonetheless take the initiative to make peace. First it is just between you and your brother in private (v 15). If that fails, then take one or two with you to try again (v 16), not to gang up on him, but as witnesses so that everything would be fair. If that fails, tell it to the church, starting with the elders (v 17). They have the discretion as to how to treat the grievance, whether keeping it low profile or bringing it to the open, depending on what is at stake. If that still does not work, then the brother who sins will be excommunicated (v 17).

Now, in Mt 5:23 you, not the brother, is the one giving offense. You wanted to reconcile but he refuses. He is not acting graciously in this case, but since you cannot force someone to forgive you, there is not much you can do if he keeps on refusing after repeated attempts. However, because you were in the wrong in the first place, he won’t be excommunicated. There remains a stain on him because of the lack of grace, but it also reflects poorly on the church. So be gracious as much as you can, It is in short supply these days.

Yes, when we truly forgive, we don’t want God’s wrath on our enemy. The context of Rom 12:19 is v 17-21:
17. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
18. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
19. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
20. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”
21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Some misinterpret “heap burning coals on his head” as wishing something bad on your enemy. No, three times Paul said “never pay back evil” (v 17), “never take revenge” (v 19), and “do not be overcome by evil” (v 21), so how can he wish evil on anyone? Heaping coals on his head is not to burn him, but to keep him warm, to allow him to prepare his meals. It is overcoming evil with good (v 21). God will repay because He is just. We don’t need to take matters into our own hands.

The expression “forgive and forget” is actually not in the Bible. When we say to forgive and forget, we mean we no longer hold the perpetrator who wronged and harmed us responsible. We choose to move on with our lives instead of being stuck in the past. It does not mean we wipe our memory bank and can no longer recall the evil done to us as if it never happened. Human nature being what it is, we can forget a lot of mundane details, but not the way people treated us, both hurts and acts of kindness. We remember and can give glory to God as to how He delivered us from holding a grudge and remain bitter years after the evil happened. We got over it and won’t dig it up again. In this sense we have “forgotten”.

Advertisements

Transgender

Q. Ontario public schools are pushing transgender education” to keep people safe”. What’s your opinion?

A. I am all for keeping people safe from being bullied, but I’m afraid all this rhetoric is clouding up the real issue. Let’s define what we mean. One common definition is transgender or trans denotes or relates to a person whose sense of personal identity does not correspond with their birth sex. Gender means the state of being male or female, typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. Sex is biological and objective, whereas gender is social-cultural and subjective.

My opinion is that our “liberal” education had dumbed down people so that they can no longer think critically and clearly. The confusion arises in our post-modern society when people accept the subjective or relative as truth, over and above the objective or absolute. Let me use a simple example to illustrate. When you change the label on a can of “corn” to “peas and carrots”, does it change it into a can of “peas and carrots”? No, it doesn’t. The label is changed, but not what’s inside. It remains a can of “corn”, mislabeled to fool those who don’t know the contents. Yet many are foolish enough to accept such “re-definitions” as legitimate, under the guise of “human rights” or other fancy labels when they are nothing of the sort.

When educators focus on what people “feel” as opposed to who they really “are”, it’s like changing labels without changing the substance. The birth sex is determined by sex chromosomes. Individuals having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (XY) are male. Individuals having two X chromosomes (XX) are female. It has nothing to do with “feelings”, which doesn’t change anything except how one feels about oneself.

When a person elevates feelings above fact, they are self-deceived and deceiving others. I am not saying feelings are not important. They are, but not at the expense of truth. Nowadays to justify themselves, people “redefine” things to suit their own preference, including when does life begin, gender, marriage, and many other things besides. The worst is when they not only choose the alternative for themselves, but force it on the majority by changing the legislation to offer them protection and impose heavy penalties on anyone who oppose them. This is the warped world in which we live now.

But by abandoning the tried and true throughout human history, they are only distorting things to sooth their own conscience. However, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Gal 6:7). God will hold us accountable to His standard, no matter how we redefined things.

Homosexuality (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

God forgives adultery and idolatry. He forgives homosexuality too when they repent:

1 Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Some of the Corinthians were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, and homosexuals, but they were washed, sanctified, and justified.

I disagree that God didn’t warn Sodom and Gomorrah because they were Gentiles. The classic counter-example is God sending Jonah to warn Nineveh, capital of Assyria, a Gentile empire. In fact, God asked His prophets to prophesy against many Gentile nations, including Ammon, Babylon, Egypt, Moab etc. For example:

Ezk 25:2 Son of man, set your face toward the sons of Ammon and prophesy against them,
• Ezk 29:2 Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt.
• Ezk 38:2 Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him

But a final objection is based on Lot:
2 Pet 2:7-8 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men or by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

Although some saw Lot as an ineffective witness in not being able to convince even his sons-in-law, and his subsequent debasement in getting drunk and committing incest, the final comment on his life in the NT is that he was righteous (three times). I believe that he did warn the Sodomites, but they did not repent because of the depth of their depravity.

Abraham was indeed a prophet as God Himself said so:
Gen 20:7 Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

He bargained with the Lord in Gen 18, persuading God not to destroy Sodom if there were 50, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally just 10 righteous people there. Even then they could not find 10, and Sodom was destroyed.

Is it extremely difficult to correct homosexuality? I don’t know how difficult it is, but there are many successful cases. In any event, I believe Jesus’ principle applies:
Mt 19:26 With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Also Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27)

Homosexuality (1 of 2)

Q. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God. Was it because of their homosexuality or their un-repentance? The OT and NT show clearly that God forgives adultery and even idolatry. Homosexuality is not mentioned. God sent prophets to warn the Israelites of their idolatry, and Nathan to King David for his adultery. Prophet was not mentioned in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. Was it because Sodom and Gomorrah were Gentiles? Or was it because there was no prophet at that time other than Abraham? Or because it is extremely difficult to correct that perversity?

A. “Sodom and Gomorrah” occurs in 23 verses in the NASB, but not together with the word “homosexuality” as pointed out by gay apologists. They therefore proposed that the reason they were destroyed is not homosexuality, but violence and un-repentance. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is given in Gen 18 and 19:

Gen 18:20 And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.
• Gen 19:13 for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”

It is true that in those two chapters “their sin is exceedingly grave” and “their outcry has become so great”, the sin was not named. But what the gay supporters conveniently ignored is the context:

Gen 19:4-5 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.”

The word “relations” in Gen 19:5 is literally “intercourse”. It was the men of the city demanding to have sex with Lot’s men visitors, so clearly the sin was homosexuality. Furthermore, the English word “homosexuality” is a relatively modern term not used in older versions like KJV, NKJV, or NASB, only in more contemporary versions like the NLT (4 times), ESV (twice), or NIV (once). However, the condemnation against same-sex relations is uniform across all versions.

In addition, the commentary on Sodom and Gomorrah in the NT is that they indulged in gross immorality:

Jude 1:7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

It is therefore not what the gay supporters suggested, but indeed homosexuality.

(To be continued)

Drug Rehabilitation

We met a drug rehab worker in Taiwan during our mission trip last Spring. He had been transferred to Toronto for a six-months term, so we visited him to see how he’s getting along. His organization provides Christian spiritual therapy for people under bondage to substance abuse. They do not use any medication nor rely on self-will, but depend only on the power of Jesus’ gospel to rehabilitate the addicts.

Our friend told us that while the drugs of choice in Canada (ketamine or Special K, Ecstasy, Meth etc.) have less severe withdrawal symptoms than that in Taiwan (heroin), he found it more difficult to help the addicts here. Although the demographics of the users are similar (primarily Millennials, or Generation Y), the hurdles arise from:

1. Patients. This is an issue of their upbringing. I’m referring to fringe youth who live on the edge, not the whole generation collectively. In Taiwan these young adults have more respect for their elders, and more discipline. They will do what their teachers or counselors tell them. Not so in N. America, where fringe youth have little respect for authority and simply refuse to cooperate when they don’t like it. They won’t get up early to do devotions (part of the spiritual therapy), nor help in chores (to build self-discipline through responsibility), but know how to insist on their “rights”. In short, they have been spoiled and wasted their own lives. Our friend is not the one who teaches them the Bible nor their counselor, more like a house superintendent. He is already trying very hard to teach them some life skills like cooking or growing their own vegetable garden, but you can only do so much without cooperation.

2. Parents. Parents sometimes contribute to the problem. To help break the addiction, in Taiwan addicts are not allowed to leave the rehab facilities during the first few months, use their cell phone, or the computer except to do assignments. They also know they can’t go home until they are reformed, as the parents won’t take them back. Here, parents can come every weekend to take them out, where they could mix with the wrong crowd again and get access to drugs. Those who do this are just not helping.

3. Language. This obstacle is common with missionaries going to a foreign country. The workers are trained in Taiwan, and speak Mandarin plus some basic English. Most addicts here are Canadian-born Chinese, and speak English and Cantonese. Thus there is a language barrier, with the addicts sometimes rudely telling the workers to go back to Taiwan. In addition, the workers feel they are isolated with few people they can talk to in their mother tongue. Like missionaries, they feel lonely with little or no resources to help them.

4. Management. There may also be a lack of understanding between the workers and management. When the workers want to instill discipline among the addicts, the latter may complain to management that the teachers/counselors are too harsh. Instead of exercising “tough love”, management may feel that the teachers lack sufficient love to patiently work with the addicts, which make their work that much harder without proper support.

This reminds me of trying to counsel couples with marital problems when one spouse doesn’t want help, or working with troubled teens who came to see the pastor only when forced by the parents. We can help only those who recognize they have a problem and ask for help. Until then, there is little we can do for them if they won’t cooperate. A drug rehab worker’s job is much tougher, as they may also be dealing with criminal elements. If not for the love of Christ, you could not pay them enough to do what they did. More power to those who labor to restore dignity in people’s lives.

Missionary Challenges

We spoke with our friends in Japan, who shared some challenges commonly faced by missionaries. They have been there for about a year, and as expected for most newcomers, the adjustment is a steep climb uphill.

First and foremost got to be the language barrier. We experienced a little of that ourselves when we went to Taiwan for our first mission trip. Although we are ethnic Chinese, we were born and raised in Hong Kong in the 1950s’, and spoke Cantonese, not Mandarin. So whenever we approach the local folks, they assumed by our looks that we speak fluent Mandarin, and would talk at such a speed (to them: normal, to us: way too fast) that we could hardly understand what they are saying! It’s only when we ask them in our broken Mandarin “Can you repeat that please?” that they realized they have to slow down.

Typically there are two routes to deal with this challenge. The hard way is to spend several years to acquire the language, so that they can function in the native tongue to evangelize, disciple, train leaders, and plant churches. This is tough depending on the complexity of the language, but opens more doors if you want to serve large segments of society, especially the working class. The other way, without knowing the language well, is for missionaries to feel more comfortable staying among English-speaking expatriates, and teach English as the means to do outreach. This takes less learning time, but limits their exposure to only those who want to learn English.

The second hurdle is culture. Some ethnic groups are by nature more friendly and open to foreigners. Others, such as the Japanese, are more reserved towards strangers. They are polite, but not warm in welcoming aliens in their midst. In fact, the more eager the missionaries are in getting to know their neighbors, the more guarded the neighbors become, assuming there must be some ulterior motives in the missionaries’ friendliness. One more factor peculiar to Asian missionaries. During WW II the Japanese fought against the Chinese and the Koreans, and some have not put this animosity behind them, which adds another barrier.

A third obstacle is isolation and loneliness. Unless your ministry is reaching out to foreigners who emigrate to your country, cross-cultural ministry means leaving your family and friends to move overseas for the sake of the gospel. That means cutting ties with relatives, friends, home church, classmates etc. Even though technology made it so much easier to maintain contact now, the fact remains that most of your support network is gone, and you feel like walking on a tightrope without a safety net. You love to have your buddy there to talk things over when you are encountering difficulties, but you can’t. To be sure, you can still Skype or WhatsApp with them, but they can’t be there physically like when you were still in your hometown. It’s just not the same anymore. Loneliness and sometimes helplessness sets in, even depression. You got to build a network of friends and advisors to de-stress and bounce off ideas, otherwise you and your ministry would suffer, sometimes irrevocably.

The fourth is children, especially teenagers. Every missionary with children is concerned with how they will be educated, how well they adjust. For themselves, they already counted the cost when they responded to God’s call to go to the mission field. They know about spiritual warfare, culture shock, getting out of the comfort zone etc., and are prepared to pay the price. But the children? They did not choose to sever ties with their friends. The decision was made for them. Some adjust well, others not so well. The parents are prepared to suffer for the cause of Christ, but it hurts to see their children in pain when they can’t adapt to the new environment.

These are just a few of the challenges faced by missionaries going overseas. I hope we can learn to appreciate and support them more. Some go abroad right out of bible school or seminary. Others have had successful careers before giving up everything to follow where Christ leads them. Pray for them. Don’t assume because they are outside the four walls of your church they are less important. They are fighting on the front lines for the Lord, to extend His Kingdom. Support them in whatever way you can. They are worth it.

Difficult Case Witnessing

Q. How do you witness to friends whose unsaved parents have died? The thought of them suffering in hell turned them off so they won’t listen to the gospel.

A. The situation you described applies also to the surviving spouse whose husband or wife had passed away. They told me they would rather go to be with their spouse than to leave him/her to go to heaven. What would you say or do to help them?

First, I would console your friend. Witnessing is important, but so is timing. To give condolences and comfort your friend is important during his time of grief, or he won’t hear you.

Second, I would use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
Lk 16:27-28 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Even though the rich man ignored Lazarus’ plight during his lifetime, after he died he was concerned about his five brothers and wanted to warn them to repent so that they won’t end up like him. The deceased parent or spouse may not be pitiless like the rich man, but if they are unsaved and in agony, they would NOT want the same thing to happen to their surviving children or spouse. They would want them to be comforted in heaven, instead of joining him in suffering.

Besides, if your friend won’t listen and reject the gospel, his own children may be influenced to follow in his footsteps. So several generations may be affected by his foolishness. The past is gone and can’t be reversed. But he can affect the future by making a wise choice himself. So between comforting his emotions and appealing to his heart and will I would try to persuade him to commit to Christ. Hope this helps.