The purpose of forgiveness, part 3

Link to part 1

Link to part 2

“Therefore, you should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

-Matthew 6:9-15

Question: Can forgiveness be withheld? Perhaps there are two angles on this. One is not to do pretend forgiving. It is not genuine when you say you’ve forgiven but are still bitter, hold a grudge, gossip about the person, and so forth. We can both forgive the person who is unreconcilable and the person who, no matter how bad they hurt us, is wanting renewed community. Our forgiveness is not based either on the other party’s willingness to repent or reconcile, nor the severity of the other parties sin.

Jesus’ concept of forgiveness is radical: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.

Some would say that Jesus and the whole Bible teaches conditional forgiveness, that is, forgive those who have repented. Along with that, they might say that the Bible teaches we should always be open to forgiveness and reconciliation, and walking in Christ, with this attitude, is the antidote to bitterness. They might say that you can be unforgiving while not being bitter. They might also say that unconditional forgiveness is what leads to bitterness, I guess because they imagine that you would naturally feel bitter when that person you have forgiven has not repented. Lastly, the conditional forgiveness idea also might hold that when you forgive the unrepentant, you are disagreeing with God and you are enabling that person’s sin. You are playing God and barring that person from coming under conviction and being led to repentance.

Conditional forgivers may also view unconditional forgivers as being too permissive about sin and believing in universalism. How can unconditional forgiveness be reconciled with this? Is it possible that Jesus taught unconditional forgiveness, a radical forgiveness that went beyond Mosaic Law, and, that Jesús also does not enable sin and teach universalism?

I think that there is unconditional love that God has, and is illustrated throughout the scriptures, encapsulated in John 3:16 and Luke 22:34, where Jesus said, from the cross, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” Did Jesus wait for the Roman soldiers to repent?

When someone hurts me and it is offensive and I just don’t have the ability to sit down with them and have a back and forth, showing them their sin; is it appropriate to follow Jesus example and forgive them, ask Father to forgive them? I would say absolutely yes.

How do we forgive when we (feel we) cannot? How do we get healed or released after forgiveness? What about hard cases? How do we forgive when it seems or feels impossible?

Books on forgiveness that I have read contain stories of great wrong done and forgiveness. We might say “wow” and be encouraged, but at the same time feel shame that “I don’t know if I could do that” or “I have not been able do do that, so what’s wrong with me?”

Forgiveness for the Christian is something that God accomplishes. We just have to willingly participate in allowing ourselves to be filled with the grace to forgive that comes from God.

This post relies heavily on David Stoop’s book (Real Solutions For) Forgiving The Unforgiveable. Dr. Stoop died in 2021 at the age of 83. He was married for 60 years and this book was published in 2001 when he was 63. David earned a doctorate in Psychology from U of C, and graduated and taught at Fuller Seminary. At times, this post is like a book report. The thesis of the book is that we can forgive: here is how and not how.

Notes from Forgiving The Unforgivable, by David Stoop (put in my own words):

Sins that might seem to be unforgivable: (fill in the blank if you think of any)


No sin is unforgivable, but it feels that way and forgiveness is a process that takes time and may require steps to work through.

Myths and truths about forgiveness:

  1. Should we both forgive and forget? No. We should forgive, seventy times seven if necessary, but remember, not in unforgiveness or bitterness, but with self care and protecting others in mind. We have to “keep an eye on some people” and not close our eyes (forget) what they might do again.
  2. Is is good to get angry when you’re are trying to forgive? Yes! Anger is a secondary emotion that is rooted in hurt. Anger is a part of the emotional healing in the grief process.
  3. Should I give up all my hard feelings toward the person I have forgiven? Yes! To forgive is defined as giving up feelings of ill will or revenge. It does not mean that full trust is restored. Bad feelings that seem to resurface at times just means there is deep hurt that you are still processing, hopefully working through forgiveness.
  4. Should I forgive fast and completely? Sometimes, but often no. When someone is rude to you while driving, yes. But forgiveness in interpersonal relationships most often, unless it’s a small offence, takes a little time to process. It happened, it hurt, I need to grieve and recalibrate the relationship, and then I forgive. We mistakenly think that forgiveness without due process is Christian duty. The other person we are forgiving has shattered the relationship. We can forgive them, but not so fast. We must feel the hurt and anger, then grieve the loss of what was or what we thought was, and face the reality of what is.
  5. Over time I will feel better and forgiveness will take care of itself. False. Forgiveness is an intentional process. Denying and being desensitized and learning to forget, as in putting it out of your mind, is not forgiveness. Repression does not provide resolution.
  6. If I have forgiven I will no longer have feelings of hate towards the ones who hurt me. False. We can both love our enemies whom we forgive, and have feelings of hatred. We don’t live by and act on our hatred. Letting go of hatred is a process and/or a work of God in our hearts.
  7. By forgiving, am I saying that what happened didn’t matter? No. Forgiving does not make something bad good. It does the opposite by bringing to light the badness and getting us in touch with our anger and sadness. Facing how much it did matter gets us in touch with what we are forgiving. Saying, “It was no big deal”, is exactly what forgiveness is not.
  8. Is forgiveness a one-time opportunity that can be missed? No, not really. Forgiveness for big losses, big pain, big injustices takes time. Forgiveness is short-circuited when we do not process the pain.
  9. I don’t have to forgive until the person who hurt me repents. No, this is false. Forgiveness is an act of obedience (Matthew 6:14-15). When we forgive someone, we are not minimizing their sin nor expunging it. We are letting go of bitterness and adopting an attitude of forgiveness. When we forgive someone who has not repented, we are turning them over to God. Much more on this in the next section.
  10. I should forgive even when the person who hurt me does not repent. Yes and true. You can forgive someone who is not reconciled to you nor to God. By not forgiving, you hurt yourself by remaining a victim or staying bitter. When I forgive, I am cancelling the debt that the offender owes me, and giving the matter to God. When I see or think of that person, I no longer bring up the memories or the charges I have against them. I am set free. This does not mean we are reconciled. The ultimate goal of forgiveness is reconciliation and when I forgive my heart is available for reconciliation. I don’t wait for them to repent before I forgive, but we also cannot move into reconciliation until they repent which is their own choice and doing. My forgiveness does not signal that we have reconciled nor that we will, but only that I have dropped the charges. Especially if the person who hurt us is dangerous or is still doing their hurtful actions, we need to and should practice safety and set boundaries with or towards them. You can forgive someone fully, but refuse to have any relationship or contact with them.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

In part one I wrote that the purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation into community. In part two I wrote about living in and through Christ’s agape love as the only way to be forgiving, to be a forgiver. In this third post, I am discussing the mechanics or the how to of forgiveness. Firstly, forgiveness is based on Christ and in Christ. Secondly, forgiveness is based on obedience to Christ. Thirdly, we need to keep in mind that forgiveness and reconciliation are different.

It is a distortion or misunderstanding to equate the two as one. Forgiveness is not reconciliation and visa versa. But reconciliation comes only after forgiveness and is the purpose of it. More important than reconciliation with the person who wronged you is being reconciled to God. If I am full of judgement and hate and bitterness towards someone, I am not reconciled with God. By forgiving, which is a process where I feel and express the hurt, anger, and loss, then let it go and cancel their debt, I am reconciled to God and ready, if possible, to reconcile with that person.

I believe that when we have unresolved, unreconciled hurts, angers, bitterness’s, and losses we become distorted in our view and witness of God. On the one hand, we don’t believe and practice that forgiveness equals reconciliation, nor do we believe that all hurts and offenses should not be forgiven until the individuals repent.

The key to know is that personal forgiveness does not equate to reconciliation. To learn this from Jesus, let’s look at Matthew 18 again. The interpretive key to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness are verses 21 and 22:

Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?”

“I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.

People who believe in not forgiving until the other person repents might see conditional forgiveness taught by Jesus in Matthew 18 and Luke 17. Maybe these are not the best passages for making the point of forgiving unconditionally, but Jesus teaches unconditional forgiveness in Mark 11:25:

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.”
Here we have unconditional forgiveness. Not reconciliation into community, but forgiveness. When Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44 and Luke 6:35), wouldn’t that love include forgiveness? How could it not? It is a stretch to believe we should love people but not forgive them. Jesus commands us to do both. Forgiveness that is without love is not forgiveness and love without forgiveness is not love.

If we should obey Jesus in what he says in Mark 11, then why did Jesus talk about the other person repenting in Matthew 18 and Luke 17? It would appear that repentance is the prerequisite for forgiveness, as in it opens the door and without repentance forgiveness is impossible. But that is not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying that the goal is reconciliation. but that forgiveness and reconciliation are two distinct stages. You are always to forgive, but when there is repentance, then there can be reconciliation.

To love is to forgive, but forgiveness on one side does not give reconciliation. To love someone and forgive them does not mean that you trust them. Trust is built. Love and approval are also different. You can love someone and not approve of them or their actions. You can love but be unreconciled.

A whole other way of looking at Matthew 18 and Luke 17 is an intervention to reconcile a broken relationship. When we go to a person to show them their fault, they might not even realize there is a fault. The wrong that this is an antidote for is taking offense at something someone did, but never telling them and withdrawing from them, shunning or distancing, and punishing them, keeping them indebted to you in bitterness, and perhaps punishing them by gossiping about them, slandering or maligning them, based on your misunderstanding them or the unreconciled differences you have with them that you have never had the courage or been loving enough to show them.

Maybe Jesus is not teaching on how we should not forgive others until they repent, but that we should care enough to confront or confront caringly enough that the other person has a chance to say they are sorry!

Loving our enemies and loving our neighbor involves forgiving them, being forgiving. And the ministry of reconciliation starts with love.

“You have heard it said, but I say unto you.”

Conditional forgiveness is old school, but Jesus and the Apostles teach unconditional forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift of grace. In Christ you can forgive the unforgivable. In Christ you can forgive someone who is unrepentant.

In Christ we are also not fooled, not in denial, not uncaring. We know and see and care about sin and sinfulness. We forgive but are careful. Repentance from the other is not a requirement for my forgiveness, but carefulness is. I care about the other person’s dangerousness, foolishness, or selfishness. I care about safety and I forgive. You can do both.

The pathways of depression, bitterness, or forgiveness (Dr. Stoop, Forgiving…, ch. 4, 5, 6)

The path of depression:

Offense –> Hurt –> Denial or blame self –> Shut down emotionally –> Depressed

The path of bitterness:

Offense –> Hurt –> Tell and retell –> Choose to –> Accuse and excuse –> Obsess –> Seek payment/revenge –> Isolate and withdraw –> Bitterness

The path of forgiveness:

Offense –> Hurt –> Tell and retell –> Choose to –> Place appropriate blame –> Grieve –> Forgive –> Consider reconciliation –> Rebuild trust

The health benefits of forgiveness (from Stoop, ch. 9)

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
-Proverbs 17:22

The Minirth-Meier New Life clinic news letter in January 1995 had an article about a study at Duke University Medical School, that said that the number one killer in the United States was something they called “the hidden death syndrome: related to unforgiveness. (Stoop, Forgiving…, p. 130)

“One study of cancer patients who had been diagnosed as terminal (expected to live six months or less) found that those who completed a special anger-management program — along with traditional medical treatment — were more likely to go into remission..”(ibid, p. 131)

Note this:

Genuine forgiveness never does away with accountability (ibid, p. 137)

Q & A (Stoop, chapter 10 notes, in my own words)

  1. What if the damage is severe? Can forgiveness be inappropriate?

Very hurtful or damaging sin against us can take time to work through so that it (the process) is not superficial or in denial. A grieving process may be appropriate. Reconciliation with or repentance by the one(s) who hurt you is not the basis for forgiveness and should not be what keeps you from forgiving. Matthew 18 teaches us to forgive “no strings attached”. Forgiveness does not mean it didn’t happen or we are reconciled. Forgiveness means I have cancelled your debt and am no longer filled with feelings of bitterness and a need for revenge or getting even with you.

  1. What if the person who hurt me seeks my forgiveness, but I am not ready?

Make it your rule of life to always forgive based on being a disciple of Christ. Decide to forgive but take the time to process your grief. Grieving is a process that has an end, like making a cake or doing a workout. Even marathons have an end. So process your hurt through the grief process. You may need to talk to someone or journal it towards getting your story out and being ready to let it go.

  1. What if my working through this process of forgiveness that involves uncovering painful events and facing them so that I can forgive could cause hurt to others?

Seek wisdom from God about making revelations to others. My process of getting free and forgiving does not depend on being affirmed or endorsed by any person (but Christ). If you discover or begin to acknowledge what has been a family secret, your healing does not depend on other family or extended family or friends sharing your revelations of secrets exposed.

Any desire to share or reveal secrets that could be shocking or hurtful to others should be checked. Is my desire rooted in revenge, or self-righteousness?

Someone might be working on confessing their wrongs and they want to talk to you about what they did in the past. First, this person may believe that they need to do this for their process of growth. Second, the revelations could be hurtful to the one confessed to.

For the person who commits adultery, they have recognized their sin and sought forgiveness from God. They tell a friend, their same sex group, or their pastor or counselor. The next step is, should they tell their spouse? If they don’t tell, isn’t that unfair or furthering the deception? But what if telling will devastate their spouse and the loving (agape) thing to do is not tell and bear the humbling of having sinned and been forgiven before Christ alone and spare your beloved spouse’s feelings?

I am not telling you what to do, but just making suggestions and asking you to pray for wisdom. The news of betrayal may be so crushing to your spouse that telling them only serves the purpose of getting relief for you, so now you’ve hurt them double.

It is a mistake to try to get reconciliation and forgiveness at the same time or wait for reconciliation before forgiving. An example is a sudden end to a relationship. And you stew on it and are perplexed at being cut off and do not grieve the loss because even though you are hurt and mad, part of you refuses to believe this person is out of your life. After a time, months or even years, the chance for reconciliation on some level comes up and you refuse it or reject it in anger and hurt, because you never forgave. If you have forgiven, you might welcome seeing this person again or hearing from them, and you might have the chance to say, “Hey, what happened? You disappeared.” And then comes reconciliation, maybe. They tell you their side and you might really be surprised.

  1. Forgiving seems unfair. They hurt me and now I have to do the work of forgiving?

Forgiveness is about obedience to Christ and self-care. We forgive so that we can live in love and grace and freedom. Forgiveness is not denial of sin and wrong. Fairness really is not a kingdom value.

  1. How do we know if the person who offended is sincere in their apology?

Number one, when someone has hurt you it is a violation of trust. If they apologize and ask forgiveness, we are automatically skeptical. We are thinking self-protection. If we have not forgiven them, then we might view their apology through vengeful anger. Even if, and hopefully we are, willing to forgive them and be reconcilable, violated trust takes time to rebuild. It is okay to feel skeptical while accepting the overture of reconciliation. It is also okay to be skeptical and feel not ready to reconcile. You have the right to say or feel that this overture is welcomed, even skeptically, and also say that you are not ready. You can say, “I need some time”.

Sometimes an offender wants to reconcile, apologize, or seek forgiveness and they are aggressive or demanding about it. They may be sincere and a “Type A” person, or they may just have personal brokenness where, while their apology is very sincere and authentic, they are insensitive or selfish. Both can be true. That being said, an apology or seeking forgiveness and some sort of reconciliation can be insincere. We cannot know someone else’s heart. A fake apology may be another type of abuse. A person may offer an apology but not be able to “be good” so to speak. Their apology is sincere, but they hurt you again. Should you forgive them, over and over? Yes. Should you set boundaries or be careful? Yes. Should you isolate and avoid everyone or only relate to people superficially to avoid getting hurt? Probably not. You might employ an objective mediator or your personal counselor to help you if you are not sure of someone’s intentions who has deeply hurt you and asks to apologize, ask forgiveness, or reconcile with you.

  1. What if I don’t want to forgive?

Dr. Stoop wrote:
“Are you trying to protect yourself from further hurt by your refusal to forgive?”
“Are you trying to forgive something that is ongoing, and do you need to set some healthy boundaries first?”
“Do you feel empowered by your not forgiving?”

What might you be holding on to that is blocking your forgiveness? This is the question we need to answer so that we can be obedient. When we are reluctant to forgive it may be linked to not having appropriated God’s forgiveness personally. Be honest to God, telling God you don’t want to even though you realize it is the right thing to do and ask God to help you.

  1. What about the pain of seeing or relating to a person that hurt you?

Learn boundaries, limits, and assertiveness. If the person is someone you live with or are in a partnership with, you may need to ask for and make space and communicate this. We can say “I forgive you”, but not feel it and we can also wait to forgive until after we have had time to heal.

The overriding principle is that forgiveness is obedience and is healing for ourselves. It may seem strange to forgive someone or a group who hurt you who are unaware or unwilling to own that they hurt you. Even though the ultimate or ideal goal of forgiveness is reconciliation and restored community, I cannot make it happen but only prepare myself for it through authentic forgiveness that is rooted in Christ. My openness to communal reconciliation does not mean it will or must happen. Relationships have to be mutually matched.

Final notes and thoughts

The context of Matthew 18 and Luke 17 (and Matthew 5:23) is a believers community. People you have relationship with and share life together. In that setting, we can pull a person aside, ask to speak to them, sit down and have an important conversation where we tell them their fault or how they offended us. Hopefully, they see their fault or see that they hurt us and say they are sorry, repent, and we forgive them, and the fractured relationship is restored and we move back into doing life together. But many times, most of the time, we do not have a relationship with the offender in which we can have this hard conversation. That then puts us in the category of being the person who is worshiping God and realizes that they are holding a grudge. Jesus instructs us to let it go and forgive them.

A Christian is a person who is in Christ and whom Christ is living through them. With that in mind, the radical forgiveness of Christ is to say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”. When someone hurts me, intentionally or unintentionally they might be a non-believer or a believer. I can say what Jesus said and forgive them. This does not mean it doesn’t matter, doesn’t hurt, or is not very offensive. Being sinned against is very real and I choose to forgive.

My forgiveness is not denial or without grief. My forgiveness does not imply I don’t have boundaries or care about safety. You can have and set boundaries, be safe, and forgive. There is disciplinary action for infractions while there is forgiveness. There is a restoration process while there is forgiveness. There is sometimes a restitution plan while there is forgiveness. There may be a legal, trial, or time-limited separation while there is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a choice that we choose over and over. Restoring a relationship or rebuilding trust is a careful process. When I forgive, I open the way to restoration of relationship. Unforgiveness blocks my relationship first with God and then with people. I don’t want that. So I forgive you if you have offended me and please forgive me if I have offended you.



Forgiving The Unforgivable, David Stoop

The purpose of forgiveness, part 2

Link to part 1

If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13

What is the purpose of forgiveness? The purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation, restored relationship. The purpose of forgiveness is also community, authentic, deep, genuine community. Community is sharing life together renewed and reconciled.

We can not have community without forgiveness, true forgiveness that involves reconciliation. And the way into and the way onto community is Christ. And the means by which we achieve forgiveness is my living in a through his love. How is this possible? Through the discipleship of Christ. Learning the way.

The only way to live the Christian life is living through Jesus’ agape love for one another. Unforgiveness has no place in the Christian’s life. A Christian is someone who has asked forgiver: forgiven and forgiving. To not be forgiven or forgiving means you are not a Christian.

We can and do hate sin, wicked deeds, and all evil. But we never hate our brother or sister, but forgive them. In Christ we can see all people as worthy of forgiveness, in Christ and through ourselves.

The love of Christ, the agape love spoken about in 1 Corinthians 13 is where we are equals, where forgiveness is not individual and private but mutual and shared in Christian community. We must love sacrificially if we are truly Christians and work out forgiveness together.

In the love of Christ I can forgive you. I forgive you because of him in me. He gives me the love, the ability to forgive you

If we meet together we will have conflicts, disagreements, offenses, and hurt feelings. Agape, sacrificial love and forgiveness are the only way into genuine community. The alternative is superficiality, buffering and distancing, denial, judgementalism, grudges, bitterness, smiling while you are dying inside, cutting off or moving away. None of these are reconciliation or true forgiveness in Christ’s love.

Living through love is the normal Christian life. This is not an act or how we should act, but this is who we are… in Christ.

Christians tend to shun, distance, cut off, and run from relationships with brothers and sisters far too easily.
A block to forgiveness is blame. We say, “It was there fault”. When we blame or assign fault, we may be correct, but where does it get us? Usually we blame then justify our unforgiveness on that basis.

Sometimes we do forgiveness that has no reconciliation. I have contempt, despise, distance; but I say I have forgiven.

The blame game is a self-righteous attitude that will not result in reconciliation. When I blame our conflict on you and take no responsibility for it and claim to forgive you or worse yet, only receive your forgiveness, but offer none of my own towards you, it that real, genuine forgiveness? Have we reconciled? Do we have community? Is the relationship restored? No.

What is Christ’s community? It is a place where we love one another. And true love is sacrifice, laying down my life for my friends. That is Jesus’ life in me.

Jesus called Judas friend. Jesus forgave the men who crucified him. Can I let him live that way through me?

When we choose to forgive, and forgiveness is a choice that we are commanded to make, we see the other person as loveable, an object of love and a person God loves who I should love too, because I am God’s and have God in me. I have no right to hold a grudge or pass judgement on people, even people who have hurt me.

Learning to love is a life long task and we are always growing up into the love of Christ through our lives. When someone hurts us and we are so focused on our pain that the relationship seems unreconcilable, our only hope is Christ. He loves people before they love him and so should we. Sometimes people wrong us intentionally or unintentionally and are out of touch with their sinfulness as far as we can tell and we should forgive them. Crying foul is perfectly okay. Disciplinary action, complaints filed, confrontation: all good and okay, but we still must forgive. You can and should forgive and confront. “You hurt me, ripped me off, were unfair… and I forgive you.”

Reconciliation is a two way street. Both parties have to want it. We need to do our part to be open to it and make the way for it through love and forgiveness. The other person may not forgive, they may lack love and so any meaningful reconciliation is not possible. But we should forgive in love and be ready to reconcile like the father in the prodigal son story, when and if they ever are ready.


Bibliography (for more study I recommend these books):

Caring Enough To (Not) Forgive, David Augsburger

The Freedom of Forgiveness, David Augsburger

The Transformation of The Inner Man, John and Paula Sandford

Link to part 3

The purpose of forgiveness, part 1

What is the purpose of forgiveness?

Purpose = why you do something or why something exists. (Cambridge dictionary)

Purpose = an intention or aim; a reason for doing something or for allowing something to happen. (American dictionary)

Jesus said:

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.

“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.


And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.”

-Matthew 6:12-15, Mark 11:25

Justification by faith involves asking forgiveness of God for our sins. That is not what Jesus is talking about here. Rather, he is talking about day to day prayers where we ask God to forgive us for our sins that have displeased Him and restore our relationships with Him. Jesus says that we need to build into our daily prayer life asking forgiveness for our sins, just as we have forgiven others who have harmed us, offended us. And this is a command. The purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation, restored relationship; with our people and with God. And Jesus says that in the same way we forgive others, we ask forgiveness of God and God forgives us. God restores our relationship that was blocked by sin and we restore our relationship to others that was blocked by their sin. In Mark 11:25, Jesus says that if we refuse to forgive someone that has wronged us, our Father will refuse to forgive us of our wrongdoing. The fruit or the proof of forgiveness is restored relationship, reconciliation. That means you have forgiven them, like it never happened. You can not forgive someone without restored relationship. What I am saying is that to forgive without reconciliation is not really forgiveness and in so doing you are depriving yourself of relationship with God because God says that He will forgive you as you forgive others. This is impossible in your own strength and this is discipleship. Disciples are not allowed to hold a grudge or bitterness against other people or desire their punishment.

What about when a brother sins against us or against the church? There is disciplinary action that is prescribed and directed in the New Testament. The discipline of rebuking someone must be done in gentleness and humbly, always with the desire to restore the person and heal them, and with the genuine appreciation of the cold fact that we ourselves could fall into sin if we are not careful. When a person who you have disciplined shows any signs of repentance, they should be welcomed back into relationship with you; with the full knowledge that repentance is a process that may begin superficially, that is brought about by the Holy Spirit to enact a change in the person’s heart that brought about their sin in the first place.

After the teaching on church discipline in Matthew 18, Jesus teaches on the need to forgive those who sin against us, no strings attached:

Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?”

“I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.

“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed ten thousand talents was brought before him. Since he did not have the money to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt.

“At this, the servant fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything.’ Then the master of that servant had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

“That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’

“At this, his fellow servant fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he wasn’t willing. Instead, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. When the other servants saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And because he was angry, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

-Matthew 18:21-35

This passage does not contradict Jesus previous teaching on disciplinary action, but rather compliments it. They go hand in hand. We should and must rebuke our brother. But we also must always forgive them. And that forgiveness must be heartfelt with no grudge bearing. We can and do forgive a fellow Christian while at the same time seeking their discipline, because it is the honorable thing to do for the church and for Christ and God’s word commands us to do so.


Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Link to part 2

Fellowship and giving

What we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

-1 John 1:3-7

It is a blessing to have fellowship with fellow Christians, but we always have fellowship with the Lord.

Fellowship is sharing life.

“What is God doing in your life?”, is the question of fellowship.

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

-Luke 6:27-36

We don’t give to get, but when we give we do get.  Giving to people is never “tit for tat”, or always reciprocal.  Giving is voluntary and obedience based.  There will always be people we give to who won’t give or can’t give back.  If we only give to those we expect a return from, we have missed the heart of God.

In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

-Acts 20:35

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

-Matthew 5:23-24

“Worship is our highest priority”, right?  And giving your tithes and offerings is a form of worship.  But, reconciliation is actually more important than worship.  Is Jesus addressing disciples of whom fellow believers hold grievances against?

This is a hard word.  Baby steps towards reconciliation might be, leaving the door open, or sending a Christmas card, if you have their address.  Giving up on someone, washing your hands of them, cutting them off, or purposely remaining estranged, even when the opportunity for reconciliation arises, is not the way of Christ.

Dropping The Charges

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
-Luke 23:34

Back at the beginning of the year, I got this idea to look in my heart and forgive whoever I thought of.  And the way I thought about it was, dropping the charges.

I know that I am not supposed to hold onto unforgiveness against anyone.  But I found out that resentment, anger, and bitterness can easily creep into my heart.

It is easy to be judgmental towards anyone and everyone.  Being a sensitive person, who is easily hurt, makes me more prone to resentments and holding grudges that are judgments.

The way I described (expressed) and prayed was dropping the charges.  I would say, “I drop the charges against ______.”

And it was funny (embarrassing and humbling) to find out how many charges there were for me to drop.  They stack up, when you live life and get your feelings hurt or take offense, or get ripped off in various and sundry ways.

Jesus’ words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” is the first of his seven words from the cross.  Jesus’ example here and teaching through it blows away all of our bases for unforgiveness or resentment.

How can I not forgive anyone when my Lord showed me this? 

Preparing For The Rain

You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.

-Psalm 68:9 (NIV)
The rain is coming.  But are we ready for it?  What can we do to get ready?
I would describe what we need to do is to have:
  • Open hearts
  • Outstretched arms
  • Eyes that are open
  • Shoes on our feet
  • Clean hands

Open Hearts
Be reconciled.  Get reconciled with God, with yourself and with others.  Do not have anything against anyone.
Forgive everyone, starting with God. Make sure you forgive yourself.  Get rid of, cleansed of all bitterness.
This heart work may require set aside portions of time now to become aware of your heart problems and get free, get reconciled and purge yourself of spiritual toxins, waste and obstructions.
You may have need of heart warming or palliative care from other people right now.  Your heart disease may be killing you or immobilizing you.  Find out how to reverse the disease and get well and be well and receive from God.
Some hearts are damaged and not functioning properly.  People with these hearts are barely living and walking slow, with chest pain at times.  If this is you, seek open heart surgery immediately, from the great physician.
Be honest about your heart.  Take time off of work and check yourself in for surgery.  Sign all the papers and give Jesus everything and then let him heal your heart.
There may be people you need to talk to or see for reconciliation.  You may need to write a letter to them.  Your being reconciled to them does not mean that things will suddenly be like they were in the past.  Do not insist on that or think you have failed when it does not.
The key is for you to be reconciled to all the people that you have had anything against.  Release them from charges you have held against them.  Cancel their debt to you.
Now you are free and they are free.  If they did want to be close to you again, but they are unsafe for you or are just on a whole different path in life, you can lovingly decline the offer, without there being anything negative about it.  
The matter of the heart is to be loving: love God, love yourself and then love others as you love yourself, based on God’s love for you.  In that picture, there are many people that we can not be close to, but we can be reconciled to and hold nothing against them.  
We can not be close to some people, even many people.  But we can be reconciled to them and be willing at any time to be closer to them,  if they become safer to be around, based on God’s love in their life.
The rain is going to fall on us, if we avail ourselves to being under it.  And the main place that the rain goes into is our hearts.  Our hearts are living reservoirs or aquifers for the rainfall.
A person who has a closed heart or a calcified, dry heart; may stand in the rain and even dance in the rain.  But they will have little lasting effect from the rain and will not be able to carry the rain to others for any distance.  
The main place where the rain has lasting impact and can be held to give to others is in the heart.  Our hearts must be ready.  Building a man made container to catch, hold and dispense the rain of God sounds like a good idea, but that is not what God wants and is wrong headed.
Get your heart ready.  Get your heart right.  Get your heart healed. 
The rain of God comes upon the whole body of each person.  But it only changes lives when it comes upon and into a person’s heart.  And it is through our hearts that we live out Christ’s life and share life with others.
Get your hearts ready.  Set aside the time now to get your heart right.  Stop being distracted and get real about your heart today.
There is a time when it is too late.  And you can miss it.  An opportunity for you is imminent and you can choose to miss it if you don’t get yourself ready.
Outstretched Arms
Begin today, if you are not already doing so, to be a person who reaches out.  Reach out to give and reach out to receive.  Be less independent and more communal.
Reverse your style of estrangement and isolation from others.  Sharing is a key component to the Christian life.  Share your needs and meet the needs of others.  
Stop being needless.  If you are ‘the minister’ in your family or community, start letting others minister to you.  You may be the most gifted one, but realize your need for others, for the life in them, for you to be cared for.
Humble yourself by asking for assistance.  Delegate things to others where you have been controlling.
The impact of the coming rain will be spread and multiplied through the web or matrix of our relationships.  This is God’s design.  Today, we can be prepared for being missionaries by just being connected to those around us, right under our noses.
Stretching out our arms to touch and be touched by others is preparing a network that God can build upon.  Many of us are like the little boy, who only had a small lunch in a basket; but he offered it to Jesus.  The Lord takes our small things and multiplies them.
It is a grave error to not honor the small things we have and participate in them, offering them to the Lord.  The person who does nothing and offers nothing is a person who has a heart problem and can not be used by God, transformed by God and blessed by God.
We must do business in our very small circles, with our very small provisions or influence now and bless people in tiny ways, if that’s all we have got.  All you might have is a smile.  Then give that smile.
We need to extend out arms now to others, so that they will be extended and in service, as bridges and aqueducts; when the rain of God falls.  When the downpour happens, we don’t want to then lower our bridges and open our aqueducts and figure out how they work.
Now is the time to stretch out your arms.  Now is the time to reach out to others.  Now is the time to become available.
Now is the time to figure out how your open door policy is going to work or function.  Now is the time to make a path to your door that people can walk on.  Now is the time to venture out of your hiding place.
Eyes That Are Open
After we have got our hearts right and are stretching ourselves to reach out and be available to be touched by others, we need to learn to see.  I grew up in a revival church, where we learned to close our eyes when we worshipped, to focus on God, undistracted.  I also learned to pray for people, hands on, with my eyes open.  I also learned to see with my spirit.
We need to live with God and others, with our eyes open.  Jesus is an eyes open person.  He saw people.
Jesus heart is always wide open to his Father and his eyes are always open to people.  We need to cultivate Jesus style in this.  Some of us do not see people.
Some of us are always struggling to see God and miss all the people.  Some of us are mostly preoccupied with seeing ourselves and with how others see us.  Many of us pass through life with our eyes closed, blocking out the people in the world.
To get ready for the rain, we need to cultivate and learn to live with our eyes open to other people.  We need to learn to be seeing God with our hearts and to be seeing people with our eyes.  We need to not just look at people, but see them with our hearts.
Meet people’s eyes.  Look into the windows to their soul.  Learn to do this.
Jesus can look people in the eyes and ask them, ‘What do you want?’, or, ‘What would you like me to do for you?’, and we can learn to do that too, as we walk with him in the world.
We so often see people as being in our way.  We so often see and look to see people who we want to get something from.  Instead of this, we need to cultivate Jesus style of seeing people and coming as servants and not to be served.
This is why Jesus said, “Open your eyes and see the harvest around you”.  That is what we all need to do right now.

Shoes On Our Feet
Many of us have the wrong shoes on our feet.  We each need to have our feet fitted with gospel shoes.  Many of us are walking through life in an angry rampage and completely misrepresenting Jesus and the gospel of peace.
Take an inventory of your shoes.  Are you wearing the shoes of Jesus or something else you have fashioned?  Do your shoes stomp and kick, allure and purr or are they functional for the bringing of good news to people?
Your shoes can be high fashion, open toed or closed, sandals or boots, athletic or dress up.  What matters is where are your feet taking you?  Your shoes are about where are you prepared to go and what are you prepared for.
One person carries the good news, wearing stilettos; while another person carries the message wearing flip flops.  God fits two people differently, but they have in common that they are prepared to share the good news.  We all need to take care to be ready to share the gospel every day in many different ways, just as we put shoes on when we leave the door of our homes.
Clean Hands
Many of us need to wash our hands.  We have lived lives where we have been doing all sorts of unholy, undignified and unchristian things with our hands.  Two big ones are what you type or text and your pointing your finger in judgement at others.
Christians also take part in many sinful activities that are participated in through using their hands.  The, ‘Cleanse your hands you sinner’, message of James 4:8, is a message to Christians.  It is not meant to condemn, but is a loving admonition to ‘Knock it off’.
Many Christians, from the first century to today, have lived double lives.  We have lived as Christians but not as Christians, in the same lives.  The word of the Lord to us is, the rebuke of, ‘Stop it!’
We must stop living on two paths and only cultivate the path of Christ in our lives.  Churches should stop having recovery groups and become recovery groups.
Many people disqualify themselves from being Jesus’ hand, because of their hands.  Some have shame and guilt and see no way out of double lives.  But there is grace for escape, deliverance and emancipation.  
Many people who name Christ also need deliverance.  Nothing to be ashamed of, but something to be glad of that is a blessing.  We shouldn’t be embarrassed about deliverance, but humbly receive freedom.
If our hearts get made right, if our hearts become cleansed, we will live a different way, exemplified by what we do with our hands and fingers.  Many people do not need deliverance, but need to just begin to learn to walk in Christ, and the naughty stuff, even addictive behaviors will change and just fall off their lives.
Jesus and critters can’t live in the same house.  Our job is to open up every room in the houses of our lives to God and welcome him to live there.  Even in the basements and the belfry.  

The Generous Life Lived in Mercy

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

-Luke 6:34-38
Three or four years ago, I asked the Lord where we would live in the future, and I heard ‘Merced’.  I know that the Lord often speaks to me in ‘dark speech’, parables or symbolic language and sometimes plainly.  In this instance, I looked up what ‘Merced’ means and it means mercy.
I want to tell a story from my recent life that illustrates ‘living in mercy’.  This story also links generosity with forgiveness, not judging nor condemning and living in a mercy life.  This passage in Luke 6, of Jesus words is an illustration of living in mercy and I would say that, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful’, is the key point here that everything else illustrates.
My story is that I have an old friend who took something from me, last year.  He told me, “I took it”, and I was surprised he took it and a little offended that he took it, but glad he told me, sort of.  I told him that the item actually belonged to someone else.
It was like I left a plate of cookies out for someone in particular and before they got there another person happened by and took them: a plastic container with baked delights inside.  The next day, my friend said, “Those cookies you left out were good!”  And I said, “Those weren’t for you, but I was leaving them out for someone else!”  Then I said, “Please give me the plastic tray back”, and they said “OK”, but they never gave it back.
And in a little bit of time, I forgave him and released him from any judgement and laughed about it.  I laughed at myself for making a fuss about it.  I began to live in a mercy place towards my friend.
Fast forward to this week.  I was struggling all week, with a problem I was trying to solve.  I was doing something to solve my problem and that same friend dropped by.
We had a re-do of what happened last year, except this time, the ‘cookies’ had just come out of the oven.  He boldly said, “Can I have those?”  I said, “Yes”, and coordinated with him where to leave the ‘plate of cookies’ when they were ready, because he had to go run some errands.  I saw later, that he had picked up the plate.
Later that day, in the evening, another situation presented itself where another friend of mine needed a favor actually for him and two of his friends, that I could do for them, only if I freely wanted to, but it would take some valuable time for me to do it.  I got a nudge that this would be a generous thing to do, and I did it.  He was very grateful, and thankfully received the gift.
That problem that I was working on earlier in the day was not solved,  and I was disappointed and vexed, but was persevering and planning out my next step, the next thing to try.  After the encounter with my second friend, I tested my problem again, and it had gone away.  And that is when I put this whole picture together.
This particular problem could come back although I hope is does not.  But I can pretty much count on the fact that I will have other problems.  Sometimes life seems like one problem after another.  Every problem is an opportunity to grow in our relationships with God.
When life gives us a negative, God always gives us a positive, like a compensation.  Every problem or challenge has a gift, a grace package attached to it.  We sometimes do not receive it, see it or open it; and instead, wallow in the negative, playing the victim, judging others and even judging God.
Living in mercy is a life of generosity.  And there is a principle that when we are generous, more comes back to us.  It is a matter of the heart and a merciful hearted person is a lender to those who can not repay, a lover of their enemies, who treats them well; and someone who does not at all live, ‘tit for tat’.  Merciful people live in the heart of Father who is merciful and kind.
I want to share with you how Brian Simmons translates this passage:

   “If you lend money only to those you know will repay you, what credit is that to your character?  Even those who don’t know God do that.  But love your enemies and continue to treat them well.  When you lend money, don’t despair if you are never paid back, for it is not lost.  You will receive a rich reward and you as true children of the Most High God, having his same nature.  For your Father is famous for his kindness to heal even the thankless and cruel.  Show mercy and compassion for others, just as your heavenly Father overflows with mercy and compassion for all.”

  Jesus said, “Forsake the habit of judging and criticizing others, and then you will not be criticized and judged in return.  Don’t look at others and pronounce them guilty, and you will not experience guilty accusations yourself.  Forgive over and over and you will be forgiven over and over.  Give generously and generous gifts will be given back to you, shaken down to make room for more.  Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top!  Your measurement of generosity becomes the measurement of your return.”  -Luke 6:34-38 (TPT)

Forgive Always

“Therefore, you should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.]

“For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

-Matthew 6:9-15

For me, there is no unforgivable sin or thing that another person can do, that I can take offense over.  When I do not forgive, I am stepping out of the kingdom, where I am forgiven and God offers forgiveness to others.  When I am sinned against or get offended by another’s action, the challenge for me is this: Am I going to step in or step out?

This thing that happened presents a choice, like a fork in the road.  Will I choose not to forgive, showing my lack of forgiveness by complaining and being offended and making a case against the ones who hurt me?  Or will I forgive them and step into the kingdom, into God and into Christ?

When the event happens, I can not avoid making the choice to either step in to God’s kingdom or step out of it.  By not forgiving, I am making a choice to step out of the kingdom of God and live in my little kingdom, where I judge and punish and make the rules, because I am king.  The free gift of forgiveness that I have received carries with it the responsibility to give personal forgiveness to others, generously mirroring what God has done for me and reflecting God’s desire to forgive.

When I do not forgive, I am acting like or making a judgement that this particular sin or offense is unforgivable. I am standing over that person and saying that their sin is not forgivable, because I am not forgiving it.  And, in so doing, I have ceased to be a forgiven one, who wants forgiveness for everyone, and instead have become a person living out a belief that some sins are not forgivable, at least not without some punishment.

When I do not forgive, I place myself outside forgiveness; because a person is either forgiven who forgives or unforgiven who is unforgiving.  There is no category available called ‘forgiven but not forgiving’.  Does this mean that if I do not forgive, that I lose my salvation?  Salvation is a process and you fall out or drop out of the salvation process when you do not forgive.  Unforgiving people are out of the kingdom of God

When I forgive you, I make room for Christ between us.  When I forgive, I see those I forgive as people to whom Christ comes and is given to.  When I forgive, I am remembering who I am and what it is all about.

When we do not forgive, we may think we have good reasons not to, because what was done to us was wrong, was offensive or was unjust: “that just was not right”.  So, we step into unforgiveness.  A misconception is that some things are unforgivable, so we pick and choose and evaluate and judge who we will forgive.

But Jesus is clear that we are to forgive everyone.  When I won’t forgive, I have forgotten how much I have been forgiven.  And forgiving breaks me in good way, out of and from pride.

Forgiving others who hurt me or offend me or have been unjust to me, causes me to die to my self, my selfishness, and to live into Christ.  Forgiving others makes me believe in the gospel to the core of my being.  I am very simply not allowed to hold others in contempt.

When I am hurt, offended, falsely accused, misunderstood or ripped off; I want to forgive.  I want to forgive because I want to be obedient to Jesus.  I want to and I will forgive, because I want the kingdom of God in my life.  I want to see all the offenders and sinners, myself and all others, as persons to whom God comes to in Jesus Christ. 

No One Ever Is To Blame

Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

-Matthew 7:1-6
“No one ever is to blame”, is a way of saying the same thing Jesus said about not judging.  Yet, we constantly judge or blame others.  It seems to me that the log in the eye and getting trampled and torn to pieces, is the more common way that we live, than the way of Christ.

There is a better way to live than the way of blaming:

  • Start dealing with your own stuff.  
  • Start taking responsibility.
  • Start letting God love you.
  • Start being a disciple of Jesus.
  • Start living a life of communion with God, 24-7.
  • Start letting love rule your heart, mind, thoughts and words.
  • Start listening.
Blaming or judging others is not the way to live.  There is a better way.  In order to get clean, we first have to know we are dirty.
The word ‘bigot’ is a favorite of some people to name call others.  But bigotry actually means, “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”.  People who call others ‘bigots’ are actually showing that they themselves are the bigots, because they can not tolerate other’s opinions.
It is a paradox perhaps, that when you call someone a bigot, you have shown yourself to be one.  Because, by definition, a bigot is someone who is intolerant of other’s opinions.
Does this mean we should be tolerant of illegal and/or destructive behavior?  No.  Jesus’ word to not judge does not contradict the law, the moral law of God; like, “do not murder”, and “do not lie”.  We can say, “that’s wrong”, or “that hurts”, and not be breaking Jesus’ word.
We can say, “I think that’s wrong”, or “ouch, that hurts”; and the other person may argue or question back.  This is very different than judging or blaming.  We can dialogue and debate, have questions and answers, without blaming.

We do always have to make evaluations or value judgments, based on the ethics of Christ, but without condemning, which is what blaming is.  There may also be a time and a place for verbal rebuke, but that is different than blaming, fault-finding, or judging, that is blind to one’s self and places fault, blame, and condemnation outside or onto the other.

Jesus says that the person who goes around blaming others, without looking at and dealing with their own faults will receive the same treatment.

We do need to discern right and wrong.  There are fair and charitable ways of judging.  We have the phrase, “fair enough”, that a person uses when a fair or non-condemning judgement is spoken towards them.

“Do not judge” or “stop blaming”, are admonitions to stop being unfair, unkind and uncharitable.  Charitable, kind or fair evaluating (I hesitate to use the word judging or blaming) must be done with humility.  I always need to ‘go first’ and look in the mirror and humble myself, before I can have any chance of you being interested or in any way responsive to my pointing out your fault.

Blaming, judgmental-ism and fault-finding break Jesus’ ethic of love.  There is a better way.  We need to be hard on ourselves and generous with others.  Love is tolerant while blaming is intolerance.

The hypocrite is blind to their own faults or shortcomings, while being obsessed with the failures of others.  That is not love, is not Jesus way and is not the Christian way.

Nothing is accomplished by blaming.  Blaming is destructive: it hurts and wounds, and is ungracious and not redemptive or healing.  When we are blaming, we step out of communion with God.

Blaming is an elixir where you flatter yourself into believing you are superior to others.  Blaming joins in with the work of Satan, who is ‘the accuser of our brothers and sisters’ (Rev. 12:10).

A person who blames, shames, judges or grumbles against others is a person who has not been sanctified or cleansed by God; because once you have been delivered from your own junk, you will not have the temerity to blame others.  The person who blames others can not see the ugliness of themselves outside the grace of God, because they are blinded by their hypocritical style that completely lacks grace.  In other words, when we are honest with ourselves about what we are like outside of God’s grace in our lives, we will stop looking down, judging or blaming others; but instead we will want to be peacemakers, lovers, bridge builders and ministers of reconciliation.

We need to cultivate an un-blaming style, an uncritical temperament and a tolerant, non-judgmental approach to others we disagree with.

There is a way to disagree with others and do it in love.  But Christians often say or write nasty things that are without grace, love, or an eye on redemption.

There is a style that is called ‘the blame game’.  In a nut-shell, it means not taking responsibility.

In life and in the world, there is good fortune and the unfortunate.  These two things happen in a huge variety of ways.  When unfortunate things happen, we can chose how to react; and a bad choice is the blame game.

Another popular manifestation of the blaming style today is what is called ‘victimism’.  The way it goes is that when bad things happen to me or I suffer misfortune, then I see myself as a victim and then take on that persona: the ‘victim mentality’, and live a life of blaming, judging, grumbling and being bitter.

The first blamer in the Bible was Adam, who blamed Eve.  When we get in trouble, like Adam did, we are also tempted to blame.  To blame is to not accept responsibility.

Two people can be in the same situation, where misfortune befalls them and one blames, while the other takes responsibility.  Blame blocks growth, forgiveness and reconciliation.  Authentic love and prosperity take a back seat and are stifled or frozen out by blaming.

Stop blaming and start loving.  No one is to blame.  Start taking responsibility, being a minister of reconciliation and authentically loving.

Even though the verse that I started with says, “do not judge”, and doesn’t say, “do not blame”; what I am getting at is that when we blame, we are judging unrighteously.  “No one is to blame”, means “don’t blame”, or “blaming does not lead to growth”.  Instead of blaming, which is making an unrighteous judgement, we ought to take responsibility, reconcile and authentically love.

Taking responsibility is when you take it for what happened, if you were at fault, and take it for going forward.  If you were 99% or 1% responsible, take responsibility for that.  If you feel you could have done something or more of something that might have helped and you did not, and you were passive, take responsibility for that.  There is no shame in taking responsibility, but it exercises your humbling yourself, from which you open the way to grace.

Reconciliation is when two different people, with different points of view, and different hurts about the same thing come together and touch.  If I live in the land of ‘blaming you’, I can not reconcile with you.  If I wait for you to admit fault first, I am blaming you and can not reconcile with you.

When we have someone who has hurt us or offended us or failed us, but they won’t see it and won’t admit it, we still must not blame them and hold blame against them, because that is standing in judgement and being unforgiving and unloving.  Remember that love does not say sin is ok, abuse is ok; or that sloppy, selfish relating is ok; but love loves without condition.  Love keeps no records of wrongs.

Authentic love is when I know God loves me, so I love myself, and then I love you, without condition.  Authentic love starts with God’s love, which is unconditional.  God loves sinners, of which I am, and I love me, and I love you, with and through God.  It is still me loving, but God has been transforming my heart, to love the way He loves.

When I live in blame or make judgments about people, I block grace from entering, because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

There is a time and place to assign blame, that seeks a judgement, but is not sinfully judgmental.  When there is an auto accident, for example, the authorities or insurance adjusters want to assign blame.  There is an ruling that does not assign blame personally that is just called an accident.  When the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up after launch, in 1986, they needed to investigate why, and who or what was responsible.

And when someone hurts us or bumps us, we can say, “ouch”, and that is not judging or blaming or grumbling.  But constantly complaining about everything and anything, especially when it is in bitterness, anger, and judgmental-ism, is called grumbling, which is sinful and destructive.

The ‘blame game’ is when we do not take responsibility.  If you do not take responsibility, you are not honest, and I never get to know you and love your authentic self.  Being the ‘blamer’ or the ‘victim’ or the ‘recipient of dramatic sufferings’ is a persona and not the real you, so when that is your presentation to others, others end up knowing or loving your persona, while never knowing and loving the authentic you.

Blaming sometime works like this.  Something has happened and now we must figure it out, so we can fix it, and part of the problem-solving that we are engaged in gives rise to blaming.  Rather than looking at ourselves and being loved and being loving, we instead blame.

Blaming is just like what Jesus said about unrighteous judging, having impaired vision, while trying to fix the other people’s vision.  Jesus called the Pharisees ‘blind guides’, because their vision was so bad.  They blamed and judged all over the place.

Blaming, psychologically, is a defense mechanism.  We project our communal blame onto others in a scapegoat fashion.  We deny responsibility for our part in the fiasco, often feigning disgust, and we displace our feelings of loss into another compartment, area or issue rather than working our problem.

Blaming is the opposite of  ‘The Serenity Prayer’ life-style, where we humbly pray for God to help us accept the things (and the people) we can not change and to have the courage to change the things (my self with God’s help) that we can and to know the difference.

Blaming is a destructive conflict resolution method.  Who wins when we blame?  No one.

Love actually covers sin.  Love actually overlooks a fault.  Love says, “let’s talk”.  Love listens.  Love wants to know people who are different.

Blaming is judgmental, arrogant and proud.  Blaming prosecutes, persecutes and is unmerciful.  Blaming is hopeless and looks down on the miserable ‘low life’s’ below it.

When we blame, we are playing God.  The blaming person is not complete in their own godliness, yet they take it upon themselves to fix, solve, categorize and punish others.  The temptation from Adam and Eve to today has always been to play God, be a law unto yourself and then blame the other person when something goes wrong.

The opposite of blaming is interceding.  The person who intercedes gets between the problem, the failure, the brokenness or sin and the person or people.  I broke someone’s window once, and my dad interceded for me and fixed it with no blaming and no shaming.

We live in a world and in a society where blaming is the norm.  People who embrace the blaming style end up hurting others, but their biggest loss is towards their own self.  This is because blaming blocks healing, reconciliation and deliverance.  Blaming is a pure work of the flesh and puts a stop sign to spiritual growth in the blamer’s life.

Stop blaming.  No one ever is to blame.

  • Start dealing with your own stuff.  
  • Start taking responsibility.
  • Start letting God love you.
  • Start being a disciple of Jesus.
  • Start living a life of communion with God, 24-7.
  • Start letting love rule your heart, mind, thoughts and words.
  • Start listening.

When we blame, we wall ourselves off from our own healing.  Not only does blaming hurt the ones you blame and is a form of cursing, but blaming says, “I don’t need you and I don’t need God”.

The blamer sees God as on their side.  They are self-righteous.  Their indignant tone is not centered in the living Christ, but in their self-righteousness.

The blamer, if they are a Christian, thinks they are working with, for, and in God.  They may even believe that their blaming tirades are prophetic messages.  They treat and talk about their brothers and sisters in Christ as if they are the enemy, but your brother or sister is never your enemy.

Self-righteousness will delude a person into killing others who do not share their ideology.  Today, some of the people in some of the ideological camps demand complete tolerance to their practices, while at the same time being the least tolerant and even violently intolerant of different practices, beliefs, view-points or ways of life.

There has only been one man who was righteous, only one man who did not need to grow up, and only one man who did not need to repent and be open to inner and outer healing.  The rest of us are all in process, in need of growth and in need of healing.

Spiritual grown is a process.  Changing our ways is a process.  The way of self-righteousness is always a temptation and a pit fall.

Humility is the way of Christ.  There is a way to disagree in humility.  We ought to be weeping over our discord, disunity and disagreements, rather than blaming, shaming, rebuking, judging, demonizing, being in fear of, psychoanalyzing and dis-fellow-shipping or shunning our brothers and sisters.

Can we forgive each other?  Can we listen to each other, to others who hold a different view or opinion than ours?  Can we as Christians make it our goal to love, rather than being right?

When I choose not to blame, but rather forgive, extending grace and love, weeping with you and for you; I want to be in God’s image and be in Christ, as a bridge to God.  Jesus did not come to teach us the right way to get saved so much as He came to save us.  We are saved in His person.

We have Christians today who bear Christ’s name, but not his character and his love, nor his wisdom.  They act as if being a Christian is about getting it (the gospel, the Bible, theology, ecclesiology,  epistemology or politics) right.  But, Jesus told his disciples, “love one another as I have loved you, and then the whole world will know you are my disciples”.

Will we die to our selves and selfishness and live in Christ?  Will we take up our crosses instead of taking up our rightness and our correctness and our bossiness over others?

If you stop blaming, it will begin in your heart, then your mind and then in your words, written and spoken.  People who stop blaming are no longer defensive, and begin to take responsibility and admit failure.

Blaming comes from low self-esteem, whether you blame others or take on the blame yourself.  Healthy self-esteem does not blame or shame or judge.

No one ever is to blame, so stop blaming.

  • Start dealing with your own stuff.  
  • Start taking responsibility.
  • Start letting God love you.
  • Start being a disciple of Jesus.
  • Start living a life of communion with God, 24-7.
  • Start letting love rule your heart, mind, thoughts and words.
  • Start listening.

What if every word was mediated through Christ, his cross; his death, burial and resurrection?  What if what I say to and about people comes from my heart and soul that is filled with the Spirit of God?  What if I lived as a Christian?

There is a place for rebuke, but it is not the main thing.  The cross of Christ is the biggest rebuke to sin, carnality, and every wicked spirit.  We have Christ’s love and His love shown on the cross, as our primary weapon for saving the world from sin and darkness.

As we live and walk with Christ ourselves, we are in the process of having our eyes made clear, to see as he sees with his eyes through his heart.  When we are walking with and in him, the time comes and it happens often, that we help remove specks from each others eyes, in love; as one’s who love much because they have been forgiven much.  And we become more than willing to lay down our lives for one another in generous humility.  When the trouble happens or discord erupts, when misunderstanding or disagreement comes up between us, the soul living in Christ, always says, “No one is to blame.”

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