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"Our Answer is God. God's answer is us. Through partnership we make our world better."
- Dorian Scott Cole

Teaching/Sermon Article

Forgiveness: Relationships God's Way

Luke 6:36-37 (New International Version)

Copyright © 2008 Dorian S. Cole

36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

First, note the context of this passage. In Luke chapter 6 Christ talks about Law versus compassion. Some accuse him of breaking the Law of the Sabbath by picking grain and preparing it to eat on the Sabbath. These people set the Law above human need. He told them that it had not been this way historically, and then he healed a man on the Sabbath. Later in the passage, he healed and spoke to people who had come to hear him, and spoke what we call "The Beattitudes," which are primarily to the suffering. Christ then charges them to deal with others with mercy, as we read in versus 36 and 37, and then Christ instructs them that our good treatment of others comes from following his words.

The Law is the instruction in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

In context then, we are charged to follow Christ's words and let our merciful conduct toward others take precedence over everything, even the Law and even our disputes with our enemies. It is from building our lives on Christ's example that we are able to do this.

The word translated "forgive" (apoluo) is a different word than is typically used in the New Testament (aphiemi). The typical word (aphiemi) means to let it pass, give it up - just remove it from yourself. Apoluo has a stronger legal sense, as in to release from accountability or obligation - acquit. It perhaps carries a sense of a more serious offence being completely dismissed so that the person is no longer responsible in any way. For those who were (are) preoccupied with "The Law" it carries a far deeper meaning than just overlooking petty offences.

Christ doesn't ask us to make people suffer or pay for their crimes. He simply says, from an attitude of compassion, be merciful... consider them not guilty of the charges. They don't have to make it up to you.

How serious was Christ about our forgiving others? He says in that same passage:

Luke 6:27-30 (New International Version)
27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Are these just recommendations, or was Christ serious? The Apostle Peter asked Christ about the depth of this, knowing that those who followed the Jewish teachings would forgive up to seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22 (New International Version)
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Fortunately we don't have 70 cheeks or one person could smack us around all day. In context, Matthew chapter 18 is about how we hurt each other, how to reconcile (forgive) with each other, and how difficult it will become for those who fail to forgive others. For those who ruin other's lives, whether children or others, they will pay for the pain and troubles they cause others. It is like Karma that the Hindus recognize: If you do something to someone else, you are liable for that debt. You will remain liable until you either repay it or the same is done to you. If you fail to forgive someone, you are attached to that person in a cosmic dance. As Christ said, you reap what you plant. But if you ask for forgiveness, and forgive others, then you are released from that bondage.

What Christ described as "seventy times seven" is a life of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. It is a habit. The habit is the refusal to allow yourself to be carried away with the natural anger that results from someone having harmed you, which usually provokes a hateful response from you. Hateful responses often escalate into more and more conflict, and even if it doesn't escalate, the lack of forgiveness separates people from each other. Forgiveness brings people together again so that healing can occur and people can become better in their relationships.

Not only must we forgive, Matthew 18:15-18 advises that we should go to the person who offended us and work it out. If the person won't work it out, then we are to treat them as "Gentiles and tax collectors." Gentiles and tax collectors weren't shunned by Jesus - he went to them just as he went to the Jews, and sought their salvation. But the understanding was that they were not in the same state with God as those who were reconciled - they needed more help.

Today we have many more tools at hand than the average person who Jesus taught. We know to respond to some with "tough love." We know much more about conflict resolution, and have much better conflict resolution techniques. But conflict resolution also begins with compassion. Jesus' idea was not to be a floormat for those who would repeatedly take from us. We can lock things up or put items and loved ones out of sight and reach so that they don't stop our ministries and harm our families. We can get help for those on drugs who repeatedly steal to support their habits (although for alcohol, drugs, gambling, and other additctions the person often has to "hit bottom," destroying their entire lives and everyone around them before they decide they will receive help).

Some people we know to treat well when in contact, but generally avoid because they are going through a destructive time and will destroy everyone and everything around them. Often little good will come of trying to help them - it will only be thrown back in our face or even turn them away from us for interfering in their lives. They have to learn "the hard way." They are like "Gentiles and tax collectors" to us. Forgive them, appreciate what they are going through, and be willing to reconcile when they are ready to change. What Jesus taught was not to allow the damage that people do to us, to prevent us from reconciling. People are the most important thing in God's eyes, and should be in ours. God rejoices the most over the return of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-13) or the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

Everyone can be forgiven for any sin. But is there a sin that can't be forgiven? Mark chapter 3 and Matthew chapter 12 both refer to blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable. It is the Spirit of God who communicates with us and brings us into a good relationship with God. If we decide not to listen, then there is no avenue of reconciliation with God. It isn't so much a sin as a personal refusal.

The following article (set of 2) is about becoming forgiven: Can I Be Forgiven?

Yours in Christ,

- Dorian Scott Cole

Author's Books

The Prophetic Pattern: Discussion Guide for Ancient and Modern Prophecy

Are we all going to die on Friday, December 21, 2012? My new book critically examines that question. Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing. Description.

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On Friday, December 21, 2012, are we all going to die? Are there really signposts to the world's end? Does modern prophecy really merge with ancient prophecy? Will all of the Christians suddenly disappear? The answers may surprise you.

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Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing.

About the author: Dorian Scott Cole is an independent, cross-disciplinary scholar with education and experience in psychology, philosophy, religion, language, visual semiotics, and technology. He is a licensed minister with a mainline denomination with full time pastoral and counseling experience. His education in religion and psychology was through a state university (IU) followed by independent study. Other books and publications: Ontology of God, How to Write a Screenplay, Writers Workshop Script Doctor,, and

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Ontology of God: The voices of the ancients speak.

My recent book, Ontology of God, looks at what we can learn through the ages regarding the history of several aspects of religious development as affected by the ancient societies they were in, including law, mercy, and love. Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing. Description.
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Echoing through time are the voices of ancient people telling us about God. From Mesopotamia and Egypt 5000 years ago, often from even earlier oral traditions, every civilization has been inspired to tell us about God. Their voices vary widely and even conflict. Is there a common message that they thought was so important that they had to pass it on? In this book, the ancient voices speak.

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Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing.

About the author: Dorian Scott Cole is an independent, cross-disciplinary scholar with education and experience in psychology, philosophy, religion, language, visual semiotics, and technology. Other books and publications: How to Write a Screenplay, Writers Workshop Script Doctor,, and

Reading type: Mainstream Scholarly Specialist

Distribution notice:

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