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”.

Turn the Other Cheek (1 of 2)

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Q. What does Matt 5:38-42 “turn the other cheek” mean as applied to our time? A commentator says Jesus was showing the lower social strata how to live under Roman rulers. I have been told that it means not to retaliate against the evil doer or do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:21

Taking it literally and applying it to present time, I think there are other Christian ways to avoid the confrontation. The peacemaker in Matt 5:9 would apologize or say something diplomatic to the evil doer who would then stop hitting. If the evil doer hits without any reason, the peacemaker could run away to avoid further confrontation and harm. To offer the other cheek is a provocation, daring the evil doer to hit again. Am I off the track?

Give the outer garment – Jesus says to keep the laws of the country. By giving into lawlessness would be contradicting the law!?

A. First note the context. Jesus’ instructions were to contrast what the OT law said, which the Pharisees misinterpreted (5:38), with what God wanted (5:39-42). So what was originally intended?

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is a quotation from 3 passages:
Ex 21:24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
• Lev 24:20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.
• Deut 19:21 Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

The law’s intention was to:
• Fit the punishment to the crime,
Limit the punishment to the crime, to control excesses.
It was the guide given to judges to execute justice. The Pharisees, however, misapplied it to individuals taking matters into their own hands. Sinful men have a tendency to revenge. The extreme example is Lamech, who wanted to avenge seventy-sevenfold:
Gen 4:23-24 Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
The Pharisees turned this law into an obligation for the victim to demand his rights to retaliate. The OT law was actually good in restricting going overboard, but the Pharisees turned it into a duty to avenge oneself.

Now what did Jesus mean? Let’s read the text in
Mt 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

First, what Jesus didn’t mean in v 39. He could not have meant let an evil person do whatever he wants unchecked, because that would have been contrary to God’s nature to judge sin. It also contradicts what He Himself did while on earth e.g.
Jn 2:14-15 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;

Then what did He mean? Notice the details “slaps you on the right cheek”. The average person is right-handed. For him to slap you on the right cheek he would have to slap you back-hand, which was a great insult in Jesus’ days. According to
Mishnah Bava Kamma 8:6 (Jewish oral tradition) One who slaps his fellow, he gives him two hundred zuz; with the back of the hand, he gives him four hundred zuz.
i.e. the fine is doubled.
The issue was not just physical assault, but contempt. Jesus was asking His disciples not to retaliate against personal insult, but to leave it in God’s hands.

(To be continued)

Dealing with Insults

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Q. People around us are continually criticizing us, with words which are insulting. I don’t know whether it has to do with racial discrimination or not, but it is very difficult to bear. What should we do?

A. First, distinguish who you are dealing with. Are they scoffers or mockers? To scoff or scorn is to show contempt by insulting words or action. It combines bitterness with ridicule. The inner emotion is a sense of superiority, which outward expression is to scorn or mock. If you are dealing with a scoffer, do not descend to their level. Ignore them. Don’t give them fuel:
Prov 9:7-8 He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you.

Second, listen to what your critics are saying. Although you do not like to hear them, is there any truth in what they are criticizing you? If there is, correct those things. They are doing you a favor by pointing them out to you, although with hurtful words.

Third, discern why are they so critical? It could be racial discrimination as you surmised, which is never justified. Or they may be jealous, so they try to put you down to prop themselves up. In these cases the problem is with them, not you, so don’t worry. Or it could be because of your stand for the Lord, in which case you should rejoice and be glad, because you are considered worthy to suffer shame for Him, and your reward in heaven is great.

Mt 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
• Lk 6:22-23 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
• Acts 5:41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Fourth, consider the how. Positively, learn to:
• cast all your anxiety on Him,
• be content, and
• give a blessing instead, because
o He cares for you,
o when you are weak and rely on the Lord, then you are strong because He is strong,
o we will inherit a blessing.
Negatively, never take your own revenge. Never return insult for insult. The world’s way is to retaliate, give them their due, but that’s not the way for Christians. Leave it in God’s hands. He will repay the scoffers.

Rom 12:19 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.
• 2 Co 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
• 1 Pet 1:7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
• 1 Pet 3:9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

Hope this helps.