What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Some things are worthy of treasuring for the rest of our lives, while other things belong in the dumpster.
We all have the natural tendency to cling to what is familiar, even it if proves detrimental to us. Like those who have adopted the Depression mentality, we fearfully and tenaciously cling to self-defeating and destructive behaviors. Many individuals have collected injustices and grudges throughout the years, nursing them and keeping them alive long after the activating event has ceased. Spouses who have gone through an ugly divorce carry these malignancies to the grave after having infected their offspring with the same malignancy.
In his book, Weight Loss for the Mind, Stuart Wilde suggests that "letting go" is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks for a human being. He suggests that we instinctively "hang on to our family connections, to the certificate we got at school, to our money, we embrace and hang on to our children [sometimes attempting to micromanage their lives into adulthood], we lock our car and hang on to it." People may hang onto books, magazines, cassettes, records, shoes, egg cartons, plastic jugs, bottles, reusable cans, etc. If we keep these items long enough, we sentimentalize them, affectionately calling them antiques.
Henry David Thoreau in Walden compares our accumulated belongings to traps we carry around, suggesting
it is the same as if all these traps were buckled to a man's belt, and he could not move over the rough country where our lines are cast without dragging them—dragging his trap. He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap. The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free. No wonder man has lost his elasticity.
The difficulty we have in freeing ourselves from physical clutter metaphorically parallels our difficulties getting rid of spiritual clutter. God's Word indicates, however, that we must make a full-fledged effort to rid ourselves of excess baggage. Notice Hebrews 12:1:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . . .
Perennial and chronic sin constitutes the unwanted weight or obesity that we desperately desire to shed. This accumulative set of reinforced bad habits and transgressions the apostle Paul identifies as the "old man." He admonishes that we ought to slough off the "old man" like an accumulated mass of dead skin cells or an old discarded garment: ". . . that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).
Paul gets more specific as he identifies particular obnoxious traits and qualities found in the old man—or our comfortable, old, carnal selves:
But now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds. . . . (Colossians 3:8-9)
Dr. William V. Haney in his Communication and Organizational Behavior illustrates that people who hold negative or dysfunctional self-images tenaciously hold onto them, feeling their very "identities" to be at stake:
A man, for example, may regard himself as incompetent and worthless. He may feel that he is doing his job poorly in spite of favorable appraisals by the company. As long as he has these feelings about himself, he must deny any experiences which would not seem to fit this self-picture, in this case any that might indicate to him that he is competent. It is so necessary for him to maintain this self-picture that he is threatened by anything which would attempt to change it.
. . . This is why direct attempts to change this individual or change his self-picture are particularly threatening. He is forced to defend himself or to completely deny the experience. This denial of experience and defense of self-picture tend to bring on rigidity of behavior and create difficulties in personal adjustment. (3rd Edition, 1973, p. 88)
To hang on to this negative self-image rather than to conform to God's image (Romans 8:29) means to resurrect and hang onto the old man—with its obnoxious habits and behavior patterns. Some of these behavior patterns we may have reinforced so thoroughly that it has become part of us, somewhat like individuals who carry around benign or malignant tumors, accepting them as part of themselves, rather than a hideous and life-threatening alien growth.
David F. Maas
A Time to Throw Away
Jesus compares our sins to debts. We have violated our obligation of being obedient to God, and this exposes us to the penalty that results from that violation. To teach us the lesson of forgiveness, God bases how He forgives us by the forgiveness we extend to others!
Those who come before Him unwilling to forgive others cannot expect God to show them the love and mercy they desire. God will not show them the mercy and love they will not extend to others! If we forgive others when they injure us, our Father will forgive us.
How are we to conduct ourselves in forgiving others? We must forgive, even if the offender does not ask to be forgiven. We should treat the one who has injured or offended us with kindness, not harboring any grudge or speaking of that individual condemningly. We should always be ready to do him good if the opportunity arises. This is a tall order!
Why act this way when it goes so strongly against human nature? First, it produces peace. Second, it sets the example for the offending individual—and for everyone else—of what God considers right and proper.
Does forgiveness of a person fighting a recurring problem mean that we should place complete trust in him in the area of his problem? With many problems—poor money handling, gossip, lying, stealing, and sexual sins, to name a few—we need to see a track record of overcoming before considering him trustworthy, but we can still be understanding, forgiving, and encouraging.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
No salvation is possible without forgiveness. Our Father cannot forgive our sins on the grounds of justice, and therefore He does so through His tender mercy. He has made Himself our God by giving us grace—undeserved favor. He passes by the transgressions of His people because He delights in mercy. He is so full of pity that He delays to condemn us in our guilt, but looks with loving concern upon us to see how He can turn away His wrath and restore us to favor.
Micah 7:18 adds, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy." God is love, and love is kind, but perhaps our approach to His forgiveness has been prosaically legal. The Scriptures reveal that God does kindness with intensity of will and readiness of mind. He forgives with all His heart because He delights in mercy! He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." God's nature works to give mercy, not punish; to create beauty, not destroy; to save, not lose.
Can we not see a lesson in this? Are we anywhere near God's image in this? How many of us, fellowshipping among God's people, are hiding resentment and bearing the seeds of bitterness against a brother because of some offense—or carrying a grudge, or filled with envy, or communicating gossip? Are these things acts of kindness? Does a forgiving spirit that delights in mercy enter into acts that destroy a brother's reputation and widen existing divisions?
One other phrase in Luke 1:78 shows the kind and tender nature of our God: "He visited us." God did not merely pity us from a distance, nor did He allow His compassion for us to remain as an unresolved, inactive feeling. David writes in Psalm 8:4, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" But God did just that!
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed he does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)
God has not merely pitied us from a distance, but He has entered into life, our life, on our level. The Creator stooped from His high and pure abode as glorious God, and veiled His divinity for an abode of animated clay. He assumed our nature, was tempted in all things like us, took our sicknesses, and bore our infirmities for the express purpose of being a merciful and faithful High Priest. He did not enter into our world and yet maintain a status superior to us. He truly walked in our shoes and still went about doing good.
Christ, Paul adds in Galatians 1:4, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Who knows how many individual acts of kindness—from the conception of the plan to its fulfillment—are contained within this simple statement?
This is the heart of God's nature. He generously and mercifully gives that others might benefit. Now, because of what He did, this nature is growing in us. By His Spirit He has taken His abode in us to enable us to work out our salvation, and as we yield, our lives are changing, gradually conforming to His image. He dwells in us despite all our provocations, stubbornness, neglect, and rebellions. How often we must disappoint Him, and yet as our High Priest and Intercessor, He stands ever ready to serve us with yet more kindness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness
The common explanation for this is that it teaches us to learn humility by doing good for others, by doing acts of service or kindness for our brethren. This is certainly a good lesson that we can take from Christ's example, but we can perhaps derive another from it.
In John's account, what did Jesus suggest that the washing of feet symbolized? He tells Peter that the washing of his feet symbolizes forgiveness of his sin to return him to a "clean" relationship with God. It is only logical to deduce that God expects nothing less from us in response to the sins of our brethren. In the section of the Sermon on the Mount on prayer, Jesus says: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).
No doubt, God puts a very great emphasis on our relationships since our lives are to reflect His character. If we have begun to "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27), would we be a good example of His love for us if we held grudges, hated our brother, or would not forgive another? Obviously, no. Putting on Christ demands that we "put off" these carnal destroyers of relationships and replace them with Christian virtues.
Peter asks Christ, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (Matthew 18:21). Christ's answer should give us a clue to how He feels about this issue. Peter had ventured a number he thought would be sufficient to establish his forbearance. Christ, though, pulls out all the stops, telling him that there is no set limit: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (verse 22). We are indeed fortunate and can be thankful that same unlimited forgiveness applies to us when we need God's mercy.
The following verses, Matthew 18:23-35, is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The servant was deeply in debt to his master, and when he sought relief, his master forgave him his gargantuan debt. Then the tables turn. Another man owed him a small amount and could not repay it. Instead of following his master's example, the servant forgot the mercy he had just received and had the man thrown into prison!
Verses 34-35 sum up the story: "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." The language Christ uses leaves little room for exclusions. He Himself, in the agony of crucifixion, says without reservation, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). His plea applies, not only to those who cried out for His death and nailed Him to the stake, but to all, past and future, who would be just as responsible as they were and need God's forgiveness. That includes everybody.
Bill Keesee (1935-2010)
Another Look at Footwashing
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