Our religion is also a spiritual path. In addition to the physical rites and rituals Yahweh tells us to perform, He also wants us to refine ourselves spiritually. One of the ways He wants us to purify ourselves is by learning to forgive all those who have ever done us any wrong.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 6:14-15
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Forgiveness is extremely difficult for humans, perhaps even impossible in our flesh. Forgiveness takes real humility, which is the realization of how flawed we truly are. Without realizing how imperfect we are it is not really possible to forgive our neighbor, for we end up judging his faults, and overlooking our own.
Luqa (Luke) 6:37-38
37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
As our fathers say, one of the hardest things about any business is minding our own. Since the natural use of the eye is to look outward, and to spot flaws in others, we have a difficult time learning to refocus our critical eyes on ourselves. If we want mercy and graciousness shown to us in the judgment, we have to extend this same kind of mercy and graciousness to others here and now.
Yaakov (James) 2:12-13
12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.
13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
While Yeshua tells us that there are times for righteous judgment (e.g., John 7:24), mercy generally triumphs over judgment because we humans are not always capable of the same impartiality Yahweh has, in that we are not detached. When caught up in disputes with our brothers, our natural human tendency is to ignore our own flaws and failings, and focus harshly on theirs.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 7:3-5
3 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; but look, a plank is in your own eye!
5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
When we have been hurt, our natural tendency is to want to strike back in vengeance. While it can be exceedingly difficult, we must not take revenge on our brethren in the heat of the moment.
Romim (Romans) 12:19-21
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says Yahweh.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
While there are times for the nation of Israel to fight against its mortal enemies, whenever a fellow Israelite wrongs us, we must remember that Yahweh reserves vengeance unto Himself.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:35
35 Vengeance is Mine,
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’
Because Yahweh’s Spirit dwells in us, whenever anyone does evil to us, they are essentially doing it to Him; and since He controls the universe, they must repent, or someday their foot will slip. And yet we are to pray for them, that they may repent and be forgiven.
Luqa (Luke) 23:34
34 Then Yeshua said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
Typically speaking, those who do evil do not usually realize that what they are doing is evil. Even witches and Satanists do not always understand that what they are doing is ultimately wrong, or else they would not do it. If Yeshua can ask His Father to forgive those who put Him to death in a cruel and merciless way, then how can we not forgive those who have done evil to us, perhaps not realizing that what they are doing is truly wrong?
The Torah tells us that judges and judicial authorities are to punish an eye for eye and tooth for tooth; yet why is this not the same rule we should apply in our own lives? Simply, while hard justice is necessary at the societal level, it is superb spiritual refinement for us to extend forgiveness to brothers who have done us evil.
Luqa (Luke) 6:27-36
27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.
30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.
31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
It may seem unfair to have to forgive those who we know have done us wrong on purpose, but Yeshua tells us that it is all the more important. Anyone can be nice to those who are nice to them; that is nothing special. What sets one apart from the crowd is to treat all men with mercy, even when they do not return it.
32 “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.
35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
But how can we forgive those who have purposefully misused us? Most of us can think of something that was done, either to us or to someone we love, where the perpetrator acted with malice, premeditation, or total inconsideration for others as human beings. Perhaps we were lied to, stolen from, raped, molested, or betrayed. How can we forgive them?
In the study “About Predestination” (which is part of Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 1), we saw that Yahweh is so fully in charge of the world that nothing at all happens without His approval. In situations where either we or our nation are suffering evils done to us by another, it can be easy to get all wrapped up in the exigencies of the moment, and forget that Yahweh is the one allowing Satan to do it to us, so as to turn us all back to Him.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 9:12-13
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with an open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.
13 For the people do not turn to Him who strikes them, nor do they seek Yahweh of hosts.
Yahweh is completely in charge. The reason He allows evil to happen to us is usually to stop our complacency and draw us closer to Him, so we will go back to seeking His face.
Divre HaYamim Bet (2 Chron.) 7:13-14
13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Whenever a brother does something bad to us, rather than hold a grudge, we need to forgive our brother and pray to Yahweh. Similarly, if we are seeking Yahweh, but then remember that one of our brothers holds something against us, we need to do all we can to be reconciled with our brother; only then will Yahweh accept our gift.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:23-24
23 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Yeshua tells us that if we do not forgive our brothers, Yahweh will not forgive us for our sins.
Marqaus (Mark) 11:25-26
25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
If we do all that we can to make things right and our brother still does not forgive us, then at least for the time being, that is no longer our issue. However, if we want our sins forgiven, it ought to be clear that our top priority is to make things right with our brothers, and to forgive others for what they have done to us.
How important is it to forgive our brothers, and not hate them? John tells us that whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and he does not have eternal life dwelling in him.
Yochanan Aleph (1st John) 3:14-15
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Yeshua died to take our punishment, so that we might be forgiven. No matter what happens to us, Yeshua expects us to learn to walk just as He walked, forgiving others for what they did to Him. If we are unwilling or unable to do that, then it should be clear that we do not have His Spirit within us, but some other spirit; and we need to seek His face through fasting and prayer.
Tehillim (Psalms) 51:6
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Denial is not forgiveness, and neither is justifying the other person’s behavior, or explaining it away. If you are aware that someone did you evil, whether they did it consciously or subconsciously, trying to deny that the evil took place will only stand in the way of the healing that needs to take place. Yahweh is not pleased if we only pretend to forgive.
Because Yahweh is pure Spirit, nothing is hidden from His sight. He knows what our brothers have done to us, as well as what we did to bring the evil down on ourselves. Quite often we can be eager to deny that we had any part in the evil that came upon us, but even Iyov (Job) had things to learn from his trials, though at first he seemed completely righteous in his own eyes, and his actions had seemingly been flawless.
Iyov (Job) 32:1-2
1 So these three men ceased answering Iyov, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
2 Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Iyov; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than Elohim.
Yahweh knows what He wants to teach us by allowing the adversary to bring us to harm. Therefore we should not be surprised that Yahweh loves both us and those who have sinned against us. We should also not be surprised that He wants us to pray not for revenge, but that our brother repents and is restored to favor.
Iyov (Job) 42:8
8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Iyov, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Iyov shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Iyov has.”
When talking about forgiveness, it is important that we differentiate between our domestic enemies in Israel and the mortal enemies of Israel; for while Yahweh does not usually ask that we pray for the latter, He definitely wants us to pray for the former.
While the dream that Yahweh will take revenge upon those within Israel who have done us harm might seem sweet and savory, it is an evil desire that Satan takes great delight in; and we need to pray that it be taken from our hearts, for Yahweh takes no delight in the death of the wicked. The only thing Yahweh delights in is that the sinners should turn from their ways and seek Him.
Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 33:11
11 “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says Yahweh Elohim, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O House of Israel?’”
A newborn baby thinks of itself as the center of the world; likewise, when we first get saved we can think of ourselves as the center of Yahweh’s world. We might believe that we are the only ones Yahweh cares for, and we might forget that what Yahweh really wants is for us to pray for all of our brothers.
Shemuel Aleph (1st Samuel) 12:23
23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against Yahweh in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.”
We can fool ourselves in our hearts, justifying our irrational hatreds for those who have done us harm, yet this is not pleasing to Yahweh. Justified or not, he who hates his brother abides in darkness.
Yochanan Aleph (1st John) 2:9-11
9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Yahweh looks upon us as children who need to undergo many experiences and trials in order to reach spiritual maturity. Just as no parent would be pleased with the death of a child who had turned to the wrong way, so too Yahweh is grieved when one of His children goes astray. In our anger over being wronged, we can easily forget that even if Yahweh is not happy with the way the offending party is behaving, He still loves him just as much as He loves us.
Luqa (Luke) 17:3-4
3“Take heed to yourselves: If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
The desire to see Yahweh take gratuitous revenge on our behalf is common, but evil. The important thing is to bear firmly in mind that we ourselves are flawed, and that we depend daily upon Yahweh to forgive our sins. Without such forgiveness in each moment, we cannot hope to see the kingdom.
26 “Be angry, and do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
27 nor give place to the devil.
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that our flesh is evil; therefore it is impossible for us to forgive.
Luqa (Luke) 5:20-24
20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but Elohim alone?”
22 But when Yeshua perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?
23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?
24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
The scribes and the Pharisees had it right: only Yahweh Elohim has the power to forgive sins. The reason that Yeshua was able to forgive sins was that He had the Spirit of Elohim within Him.
Without the Spirit of Elohim in us, we are unable to forgive sins; and whenever we are unable to forgive what our brother has done to us, we know that we do not have the Spirit of Elohim within us.
Yahweh desires that all might be saved and draw closer unto Him. If we ever find ourselves praying against another brother or a sister, seeking revenge or that Yahweh take revenge for us, we need to stop and pray, for when we are without forgiveness, we are not inside the kingdom.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 18:21-35
21 Then Kepha came to Him and said, “Adon, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22 Yeshua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Since we all err in many things, it is not for us to judge our brothers. We are to confront them in patience and love whenever they do things that are hurtful, but apart from making decisions as to whether or not we can allow them into our fellowships, we are not to judge or hold grudges. If Yahweh forgives us for all of the evil we have done (for which His only Son had to die), then certainly we can forgive others whatever debts they owe us.
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’
29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
And what if our brother does not apologize? There are two separate levels of forgiveness. The first level we must come to on our own, whether or not we ever receive an apology, simply so that our heart does not abide in the darkness of grudges, hatred, and death. The second level merely determines whether or not we can safely fellowship with him any longer.
Whether we ever receive an apology from our brother or not, we need to be the repentant servant who takes compassion on his fellow servants, forgiving them all they owe.