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”.

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Predestination

Q. Is there such a thing as predestination? Paul had chosen to be a Pharisee. Saving grace was forced on him and he repented and accepted. The Israelites had chosen to reject Yahweh but all Israelites will repent and be saved at the end times. The gentiles have quite a different fate. As a gentile, I treasure God’s saving grace and mercy.

A. Yes there is predestination. I have written on the subject before so I won’t repeat myself. Please refer to the previous posts:
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/predestination/

https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/is-everything-pre-determined/

https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/election-based-on-foreknowledge/

https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/election-of-saints-election-4/

Paul was a Pharisee, but saving grace was not forced on him:
Php 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;

For the conversion of Saul, read Acts 9:3-9, 17-18; 22:6-16; 26:12-18. Unlike ISIS who put a knife to the throat to force people to recant their faith, God did not threaten him. Paul was not coerced or under duress, but saw the light when he was struck blind temporarily. He repented willingly when he realized how wrong he was about Jesus.

Nor is the privilege of knowing God offered to Jews alone, but Gentiles also:
• Acts 26:23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
• Rom 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
• Rom 9:24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
• 1 Co 1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
• 1 Co 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
• Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The difference is only of timing –
• Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
• Rom 2:10-11 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.

Hope this helps to clarify your issues.

The Law of Christ

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Q. Ga 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ? I thought we live under grace, not law.

A. We are indeed not under law but under grace:
Rom 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!), but that does not mean the law is abolished:
Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

The term the “law of Christ” occurs twice in the Bible:
1 Co 9:21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.
• Ga 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

However, neither of these passages specify exactly what the law of Christ is.

Some have looked at the commands of Christ in the gospels and considered them as the laws of Christ e.g.
• Institute of Basic Life Principles http://iblp.org/questions/what-are-commands-christ
• Into the Word http://www.discipleshiptools.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36885&columnid=4189
While interesting, these are the determinations of human authors, not Scripture.

Others looked at what Jesus considered as the heart of God’s commandments & called that the law of Christ:
Mt 22:37-40 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
• Mk 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Since:
• bearing one another’s burden i.e. loving your neighbor, fulfill the law of Christ, &
• the whole Law & the Prophets depend on these 2 commandments,
I believe Paul meant these two rather than a list of 49 or 50 of His commands as the law of Christ. But that’s my opinion, not Scripture.

Eating Blood (1 of 2)

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Q. I like my steak rare. I also enjoy “pig red” (pig’s blood) congee. But Gen 9:4 says “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” So can Christians eat blood?

A. There are opposing views. On the one hand, some claim there are no problems because:
Mk 7:19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
• Acts 10:15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
• Rom 14:14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
• Rom 14:20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
• Col 2:16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day

According to them, blood is clean, and Christians are not bound by OT laws, but live under grace. So they can eat it if they want to. It is not a sin.

On the other hand, some oppose because:
Lev 17:14 “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’
• Deut 12:23 Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.
• Acts 15:20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.
• Acts 15:29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
• Acts 21:25 But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”

Both cite Scripture. Who is correct? While I believe we live under grace and not law, my position is in between. And I am not being wishy-washy. Here’s why:

(To be continued)

Biblical Economics (1 of 2)

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Q. Does the Bible have anything to say about economics? I don’t find the word “economy” in my Bible.

A. The Bible has a lot to say about economics, only that you won’t find that word in modern translations. The English word “economy” comes from the Greek word “oikonomia“, oikos means house, while nomos means law. Together it means the rules governing a household, which is translated “stewardship” in contemporary versions. Aside from its usage in narratives, passages bringing out the underlying meaning include:

1. A steward does not own the property, his master does. He is simply put in charge to look after whatever the master entrusted to him for the master’s benefit:
Lk 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?
• 1 Co 9:17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.

Therefore a Christian should not seek physical assets for himself first and forget his responsibility before God.

2. Ultimately the stewardship is from God and centered on His grace:
Eph 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;
• Col 1:25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
• 1 Pet 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

That’s where our priorities should be:
Mt 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
• Col 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

3. The prerequisites for God’s stewards or servants, in particular elders and overseers, consist of:
1 Co 4:1-2 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
• Tit 1:7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, (See Tit 1:6-9, 1 Tim 3:2-7)

The requirements are not that you have to be smart, which the world looks for, but loyal, reliable and have integrity.

Volumes have been written on biblical principles of economics. I will list only a few key principles due to limitations of space and time.

(To be continued)

The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother

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Q. In the parable of the Prodigal Son I understand the father forgiving his younger son and showing him grace. But what about the older brother? The parable left us hanging without knowing what happened in the end. What’s your view?

A. First, let’s look at the context:
Lk 15:1-2 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus responded by telling them three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. So from the context we know that the Prodigal Son has to do with correcting the Pharisees and scribes for not receiving sinners.

Secondly, let’s examine the text to see what it says about the older brother. He was mentioned in passing in Lk 15:11, but became the focus of attention in v 25-32. Taking everything at face value, my observations are as follows:

His Positive Traits:
• Hardworking v 25 his older son was in the field, presumably working
• Obedient v 29 For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours
• Loyal v 31 you have always been with me
These are commendable qualities.

His Negative Characteristics:
• Angry v 28 he became angry, first with his brother
• Bears grudge v 28 was not willing to go in
• Self-righteous v 29 For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours
• Jealous in comparing himself to others v 29 yet you have never given me a young goat
• Unforgiving; no love for his brother v 30 this son of yours vs. his father’s v 32 this brother of yours. His brother means less to him than celebrating with his friends.
• Angry with father v 30 you killed the fattened calf for him.
The negatives tell where his heart was, and far outweigh the positives which looked so good on the surface.

Now my interpretation:
• It is quite obvious that in the parable the father represents God, the older brother the Pharisees and scribes, and the younger brother the tax collectors and sinners.
• The attitude of the two sons are mirrored in the parable of the Pharisee and Publican in Lk 18:9-14.
• The older brother is self-righteous and looked down on his younger brother – Lk 18:9, 11-12 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt … The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ Compare his “I serve”, “I never neglect”. He was angry even with his father, who did everything graciously (see below) and represented the perfect Heavenly Father.
• The younger brother is truly repentant – Lk 18:13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ Compare Lk 15:18-19 Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men. (Also v 21) He was justified rather than his brother. (Compare Lk 18:14)
• The parable of the Prodigal Son is open-ended because Jesus wanted the Pharisees and scribes to learn to be like the Father, compassionate (v 20), forgiving (v 22), joyful when his child repents (v 23-24, 32), reaching out even to self-righteous sinners (v 28 pleading), generous (v 31 all that is mine is yours), but He left the choice to them. He will not impose His will on them, even though it’s for their own good.

Lastly, application:
• Who do you identify with in the parable? Do you see yourself as the prodigal son, a sinner not worthy to be called the Father’s child, but grateful for the grace bestowed on you?
• Or do you see yourself as the older brother, trusting in your good deeds and even faulting the Father for being too kind to sinners, not realizing that the very thing you are proud of is what disqualifies you from being justified.
• A few may identify with the father in the parable, in which case “Congratulations!” You have learned to see the world through your Father’s eyes and feel through His heart. He loves His children and welcomes them anytime they repent. Hope we all learn that.

Church Mess (1 of 2)

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My brother sent me an article for my comments. It goes like this:

Recently, a problem arose in a Chinese church in Southern California that needs deep reflection and careful handling. A pastor accused a fellow pastor in Sunday School and even in a business meeting of members of coming to work late and leaving early, and improper use of funds. He also said he knew his salary is lower, which is grossly unfair. Some members reacted immediately by questioning the propriety of his accusations, leading to chaos.

Afterwards some members wrote a joint letter to the Board, demanding that they discipline the accusing pastor. The Board did not know what to do, so did nothing. After a few weeks, the attendance kept declining. The majority of those who remained felt they should tolerate the pastor, but others believed if that pastor stays, it will hinder the church’s progress and long-term development.

One thing led to another. The Board sent a letter to all church members, stating “The Church Board requires the constituents to immediately cease all forms of communications, private or public”. Some members find this letter offensive. (Two thousand years ago, Emperor Qin forbid criticizing state policies, with offenders to be beheaded.)

The incident is still developing. They hope to hear from readers suggested solutions, which could also be a reference for other churches in the future:

1. When should a pastor be tolerated? When should he be dismissed?
2. Does the Board have the authority to forbid members from expressing their opinion in private?
3. Under present circumstances, what can each party do to:
a. pacify the situation,
b. resolve division,
c. allow people to feel at ease to stay in church,
d. cooperate and develop the future?

(To be continued)