WHAT DOES THIS MEAN: “FORGIVE US AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS?”
In Mt. 6:12, Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, forgive us our sin AS we forgive those who sin against us.” This might sound as if Jesus commanded us to forgive even the worst sins against us instantly and unconditionally or lose our salvation. However, in the contextual truth of His Word, this interpretation is a common, but extremely dangerous deception. To clarify this commandment to forgive “like” God does, we may ask, “Exactly how does God forgive us?”
How does God forgive us?
It will help us to understand God’s commandments, which relate to forgiveness, if we first understand the process of God’s forgiveness for us.
Firstly, it is clear that complete forgiveness is only to be found in and through Jesus Christ, (Eph. 1:7.)
Secondly, although He made complete atonement for everyone on earth, only those who personally “believe,” and choose to accept and follow Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, can be forgiven and cleansed from sin, (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:3-5.)
Thirdly, forgiveness is only to be found when we willingly and ‘from the heart,’ confess our sins by name, sincerely ask God’s forgiveness, repent from our sin, and do restitution as far as possible for serious harm we have done to others, (1 Jn. 1:8-9; Prov. 28:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Lev. 6:2-5.)
Fourthly, we will only remain in His forgiveness if we demonstrate the same type of forgiveness (or mercy) towards those who sin against us, thus living in obedience to His Moral Law of Love, in this case, the ‘second’ highest Law, “Love your neighbor AS yourself,” (Mt. 18:27-34; 25:31-45.)
This is the process of God’s forgiveness; there exists no other.
How do we forgive others As God forgives us?
The process of God’s forgiveness in Christ is our model of how to forgive others. Jesus Himself IS forgiveness, and our obedience to God's Moral Law, which does not earn anything but proves our love for Him, is our Way to glorify Him until He takes us to heaven, (read Mt. 7:21-24.) In fact, our personal obedience to the Moral Law makes us instruments of the Holy Spirit, Who heals and unifies the body of Christ. The Spirit Himself convicts and convinces of sin, truth, and judgment on unrepentance. However, He always works according to His Moral Law, but also chooses to work through people, who, in obedience to Him, minister to other people, (Jn. 14:26; 16:7-14.)
In the case of forgiveness, His law works as follows:
Firstly: God commanded us to “love your neighbor AS you love yourself.” This means, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for [obedience to the Moral Law is SO important, it] is the [fulfillment] of the [entire Old Testament Law,] the Law and the Prophets,” (Lu. 6:31; Mt. 7:12.)
Secondly: Our obedience to Jesus’ Moral Law of Love is actually constant, Godly interaction between believers (and other people.) Jesus did not call us to serve Him as if He is a Head without a body. Thus, we cannot say we love God if we do not love our ‘neighbors’ AS ourselves. When we abuse people and believers especially, or leave them to keep on abusing us, we abuse Jesus, because all true believers form the body of Christ. When we love people according to Jesus’ Moral Law of Love in truth and deed, it is true love for Him in action. Hence, Jesus said in Mt. 25:31-46, “…Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to Me…”
Thirdly: When we ask God’s forgiveness, He, as the Head of His body, forgives the sins we have committed against Him. For instance, idolatry, witchcraft – and all the trespasses of the Moral Law, which pertain to our highest love for God. However, God treats our trespasses against His body separately. Practically, we cannot confess our sins against each other to God, because He has commanded us to confess our sins to each other. Jam. 5:15-18, “Confess your trespasses [against each other] to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed…” You will not be healed unless you confess your sins to those, against whom you have committed the sin. Hence, Jesus commands in Mt. 5:23-24, “If you bring your gift of [praise, worship…] to the altar [seeking God’s face,] and remember that your brother has something against you… [note that our trespasses against them is not even in the picture,] first be reconciled to him… [as far as possible.]” So, according to what Jesus commanded, before we can speak to the Head of the body, we must first obey His Moral Law to speak to those, whom we owe confession of our sins, and those who owe us confession of their sins, to set things right among us, the members of His body.
Fourthly: Jesus also explained how to forgive others AS He forgives us in Luke 17:3, commanding, “Take heed to yourselves! [Watch out for yourselves, lest you offend someone to unforgiveness, or lest you allow someone to provoke you to unforgiveness!] If your brother [abusively] sins against you, rebuke him; [or confront him and vent your hurt calmly; tell him his faults;] and if he repents, forgive him. [We cannot hate and persecute those who never repent, but we can and must follow Jesus’ directives in dealing with such issues as far as possible to restore sinners to Him, but also so that we can remain in a right standing before His throne.] And if he sins against you 7 X in a day, and 7 X returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ [this does not mean he can lie by not repenting, and simply carry on with serious abuses as we will see,] you [must] forgive him.”
Fifthly: Jesus compels us to love Him and each other enough resolve sin in His body between ourselves. If both parties submit to the conviction of the Holy Spirit so that the abuser confesses to the victim and repents, and the victim then forgives, God ‘automatically’ forgives these trespasses, (read Jn. 20:23; 2 Cor. 2:10-11.) This is what John was saying in 1 Jn. 1:6-10, “If we say we have fellowship with Jesus, but walk in darkness [towards members of His body by not confronting their sin against us; or by not confessing to them, the sins which we have committed against them,] we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we live in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship, [not merely supporting one another and worshipping together, but confronting and resolving conflict among ourselves,] and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. If we [deny that we have sinned against one another while we did,] we deceive ourselves [to think we can disobey Him by not confronting and resolving the matter,] and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [to one another, repenting from abusing one another,] He [will then be] faithful and just to [also] forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, [so that we may bring our ‘gift’ to the altar, Mt. 5:23-24.] If we say that we have not sinned [or refuse to confess our sins to those, whom we have trespassed against,] we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.”
Later, we go into more detail with those who refuse to repent, but in short, Jesus also commanded in Mt. 18:15-20, “If he sins against you, go tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, [escalate the discipline as per Jesus’ instructions,] not as revenge, but to protect yourself against further abuse.
NOW LOOK AT THE AWESOME HOLY-SPIRIT ANOINTING ON OUR OBEDIENCE TO RECONCILIATION
“Whatever you bind on earth, will be bound in heaven, [without excuse, this unrepentant person will then have to account directly to the Eternal Judge,] and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven, [because on his or her repentance, you are compelled to completely forgive and let go without petitioning God any further.] For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, [not just in prayer but especially in reconciling unrepentant abusers to their victims and thereby also to God,] there I am in the midst of them.” [Note: this spiritual authority to ‘bind or to loose’ unrepentant abusers, does not pertain so false ‘apostles’ and other so-called christs who try to take the place of the Holy Spirit, alleging that they can forgive all sin just like God does!] All these verses focus on forgiveness between believers themselves! Our obedience to confront the offender God’s Way, while he refuses our mercy and remains disobedient, will then move the Head, as the Highest Judge, to take action against the disobedient member, who causes illness in His body, (Mt. 5:23-24; 2 Cor. 6:14-18.)
Should we have sinned against someone, whom we are unable to contact, (such as the deceased,) it would be logic to petition God Himself for forgiveness and healing; confessing and repenting from our disobedience as far as possible.
Sixthly: Here, more serious connections to our prayer, “forgive us as we forgive those…” come into play. 1) If Jesus commanded those who transgress against us to say, “Forgive me, I repent” before God forgives them, what about ourselves? How many times do we neglect to pursue such forgiveness from those, whom we trespass against? Even more importantly, how many times do we ask God’s forgiveness, while never confessing, and repenting from our transgressions against other members of His body? 2) In addition, unconfessed sin against each other may cause physical illness, (Jam. 5:15-18,) which will only be healed once members of the body of Christ obey Jesus’ commandment to try and resolve the matter between themselves, “that you may be healed…” (Jam. 5:15.) 3) “And the prayer of faith will save the sick [who has] committed [unrepentant] sin, [but who has finally confessed to those whom he ‘owes’ an explanation and restoration,] and the Lord will raise him up, [because] he has now been forgiven by the Lord.” 4) Unconfessed sin against one another can also cause death as well as illness if we “eat and drink the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner and [so] eat and drink judgment to ourselves, [because we disobeyed the Moral Law commandment to confess our sin to one another, thus,] not discerning the Lord’s body,” (1 Cor. 11:28-32.)
FORGIVING OTHERS IS MORE ABOUT OURSELVES
Jesus is so stern about resolving conflict between people and the members of His body especially, because He loves us all. He always has the spiritual and emotional health of both victims and abusers in mind. Therefore, to love others enough to try and reconcile with them as far as they would be willing to reconcile with us, is always the aim of confrontation God’s way. Nevertheless, it is a sad fact but, to nonstop abusers, our Godly confrontation is an affront, not an incredible blessing, and our forgiveness means absolutely nothing. While our forgiveness does glorify our Lord and prove our love for Him and our neighbor, our forgiveness definitely cannot heal, redeem, change, or save anyone except ourselves!
Still, forgiveness is not an option, because it is seated in the highest form of love for our neighbors. Our forgiveness is our ultimate obedience to Jesus’ commandment to love even our enemies. After all, it is easy to feed and clothe our enemies - giving outward things. But dying to ‘self;’ crucifying our pride; denying our hurt, anger and lust for revenge; trusting God completely, (after we have obeyed His commandment to pursue reconciliation,) to do justice to our wounded causes… that is giving of ourselves. That is ‘laying down our lives’ for even our enemies, who never confess their abuse and most horrendously, might never stop their abuse! Not because we are ‘nothing;’ but because Jesus came to set the captives free. Should we choose not to forgive, we call spiritual and emotional bondage upon ourselves.
The Matthew Henry Commentary concludes, “Conquerors give peace by power. It is no less to give peace by the meekness of wisdom, (Prov. 20:3; “It is honorable for a person to stop striving, since any fool can start [and continue] a quarrel.”) It is a noble conquest to yield [and not avenge yourself but choose to ‘let go,’ after you have obeyed the Moral Law.] It is the conquest of ourselves; our pride and passion.”
“BLESS, DO GOOD, AND PRAY FOR YOUR ABUSERS!” - “HOW CAN I, WITH SO MUCH HURT, ANGER, AND RESENTMENT IN MY HEART?”
What it means to ‘curse,’ ‘hate,’ spitefully use’ and ‘persecute’ others
God loves the whole world, (Jn. 3:16,) and thus, vengeance against unrepentant humanity is not His main priority. God gave us many Scriptural directions to deal with our abusers, which all attempt to salvage lost humanity, broken relationships, heal broken-hearted victims, and rescue unrepentant sinners from their harmful ways.
It is a marvelous thing to know, that when we follow Jesus’ direction to deal with our abusers God’s Way, we are operating in the spiritual realm. We are piercing the darkness and deception of sin with the practical Love of God.
Jesus’ said in Mt. 5:43-45, our enemies actually do the following terrible things to us, (and may He give us the grace never to do these things to them — especially not unrepentantly:)
· “Bless those who curse you.” Those who “curse” us are idolatrous (even Christian) witches of both sexes, who, through false doctrine and other lies, deception and manipulation, actually say evil prayers or incantations over us - although they might not even know what their evil words really mean and what damage their destructive words can do, (1 Sam. 15:22-23.) They also “curse” us when they scold us with false accusations, swearwords, and humiliating phrases, slander our names, and demean our character and work to lower and destroy our sense of self and self-worth.
· “Do good to those who hate you.” People prove they hate us by displaying a pattern of destructive physical and emotional behavior towards us, whereby they continuously commit all the crimes against us, which are described above. Thus, they prove how much they hate us by planning and executing our demise, and assault us on all levels of life.
· “Pray for those who spitefully use you.” Those who spitefully use us are people, who convey to us that our only value is in serving them and meeting their selfish needs and inhumane requirements.
· “Pray for those who persecute you.” Those who persecute us, launch continuous attacks against us through repeated patterns of harmful actions, and also turn everyone else they can find against us. Their intention is to destroy us spiritually, emotionally, financially, and physically. They also try to wreck our personal relationships, (marriages especially,) families, personal abilities, social development, work, Godly character, and eternal salvation.
How do we ‘bless’ those who curse us?
Try convincing chronically abused victims to bless those who curse them – (What does it actually mean?) To do good to their abusers – (How do we do good to such hateful people, as they cannot see a sliver of good in us?) And to pray for that constant user and persecutor – (How can God accept our prayers, as we cannot help feeling hurt and angry with them?)
It will help to remember that God did not give these directives to punish us or make us feel unworthy of His grace.
God gave us these clear orders to follow because:
· Our ‘blessing’ primarily ministers to our cursing abusers’ great need of salvation and obedience to Christ. [Later, we will discuss Jesus’ directions where it is impossible to ‘bless’ our abuser, i.e. where the abuser will not tolerate a single word from us, absolutely refuse to stop the abuse, and never repents from all the deliberate harm and evil.]
· ‘Blessing’ our abusers does not mean we say, “Go well; continue gladly on your way, may God “bless” or actually prosper you for humiliating and murdering us. Continue grieving our souls and destroying our lives, and enjoy deceiving us!” Or: “Bless you for putting all these evil curses on us, and for swearing at us!” This is not the type of ‘blessing’ Jesus was referring to. Our Most Holy God never blesses disobedience to His Word or disgrace to His Name and Kingdom. Neither does God bless affronts to His children – nor will He command us to cover and tolerate the deliberate and continual sin of others, (Mt. 18:6.)
Dealing with curses
People most severely ‘curse’ us when they bring us a false gospel to deceive us and lead us astray; lie to us, and manipulate us to consent to, and believe lies. John wrote in 2 Jn. 9-10, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring [the truth of Christ’s Word,] do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him [or tries to ‘bless’ him in any way to prosper him in his evil,] shares in his evil deeds.”
Paul also wrote in Gal. 1:9, “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than [the true Gospel of Christ,] let him be accursed!” This does not mean we may curse people and ‘return evil for evil.’ This means, unrepentant, unteachable people are already cursed by God for rejecting His truth, and we must reject them and refuse their presence in our lives, because of the danger they pose to our spiritual, emotional, and physical lives — and because of their constant provocation, which pushes us into perdition.
Still, we should never shirk our responsibility to preach the true Gospel of Christ to those who are deceived, (as they permit and as and as the Holy Spirit leads us.) We truly bless our enemies by declaring the truth of God’s Word to them, as well as the truth of the situation, (Mt. 28:19-20.) As we will see, we also bless people when we refuse to repay ‘evil for evil,’ but make the effort to tell them their serious trespasses against us; thus confronting their crimes and curses against us to bring their darkness into God’s light for the purpose of restoring them to God and to us — or, if they willfully remain unrepentant, to warn others against the dangers they pose to them, (Eph. 5:11.)
It is terrible but true: as long as they do not repent from their abuse against us, they remain under God’s judgment, and in danger of His eternal punishment, (Mt. 18:15-19.)
True children of God will never desire His eternal punishment on even their worst enemies.
What does it mean to ‘do good’ to those who hate us?
We do not have to feel emotional love for our abusers to show them Godly love by treating them civilly. In Biblical terms, to love is to ‘do good’ by imparting Jesus’ life, (which is His truth and the truth of all things;) but to hate is to commit murder by bringing spiritual, emotional, and even physical death. To share Jesus ‘love’ or to ‘do good’ is to, where possible, share His true Gospel and the truth of His Word with even our worst enemies. This is why Godly love can never be a mere feeling. Real love is always a personal decision; a commitment to obey the Lord and to ‘do good’ by “loving in word and deed!” (1 Jn. 3:14-19.)
Apart from doing good to even our worst enemies by aiding their physical needs as the Holy Spirit leads, we ‘do good’ to our abusers when we react in the opposite Spirit and remain obedient to the precepts of God’s Moral Law while under attack. For instance, we must tell them the truth when they lie to us, seek Godly resolve when they try to tear our lives to pieces, and eventually, (after following Jesus commandments to reconciliation as far as possible,) forgive even without their repentance – although this does not imply submitting to their abuse.
‘Doing good’ to our enemies is obedient faith in the Lord Jesus Christ at the cost of ‘being right,’ ‘getting our way,’ or ‘winning the argument.’ If we must lose the battle to win the war, then so be it! We might ‘lose’ the battle by humbly seeking peace, but for our own sake as well as to benefit our enemies, God always requires us to “pursue peace with all people as far as possible,” although this does not mean peace at any cost! Consequently, Paul commanded in Rom. 12:9-21, ‘Be patient [with God’s timely intervention] in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer… Do not curse those who persecute you [by repaying] evil for evil… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, [by doing exactly what Jesus taught in His Word instead of doing what they do, and thus becoming what they are.]”
How do I pray for my abuser?
We indescribably ‘bless’ those who curse us and ‘do good’ to those who hate and persecute us by praying for their repentance and salvation, (1 Tim. 2:8.)
Praying effectively for our abusers does not have to be emotional prayer. We must simply pray for them sincerely and in faith. God regards the sincere intercession of His children. Thus, it is of great importance to petition Him for the spiritual needs of our abusers first, as commanded in Jam. 5:16b, “…pray for one another, that you may be healed [of illness, hatred, broken relationships and affliction.] The effective, fervent, prayer of a righteous person avails much.”
Prayer is the highest form of spiritual warfare
We do especially ‘good’ when we seek God’s face by praying for the lost and troubled souls of those who abuse us, “as we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not [physical] but mighty in God for pulling down [deception, division, hatred and other] strongholds,” (1 Cor. 3-4.)
To pray ‘effectively,’ God called us to ‘humble ourselves under His Almighty hand;’ relying completely on His protection, provision, guidance, conviction, leading, wisdom, and help. The more we obey God’s Moral Law of Love, the more we are submitting ourselves on an ever-deepening level to Him. Through our active obedience to His Word, we are submitting to His Almighty Reign, Infinite Wisdom, and Righteous Judgment.
In praying for our abusers, we also need to ask God to lead us in the whole truth of His Word and the truth of our situation. We also need Him to show us the state of our own hearts, to know and do His perfect will, (Jn. 16:13.) We may also ask God to reveal the hidden causes of our problems, so that we can know exactly what we are dealing with, (Jam. 1:5.) The Spirit Filled Bible’s footnote explains, “The wisdom which may be had by asking ‘in faith’ is not intellectual knowledge or philosophical speculation, but spiritual understanding of the purpose of trials [and how to deal with them God’s Way.] When God grants a gift, He does so generously, not grudgingly.”
Then, we should ‘storm the gates of Hades,’ [spiritual death, not ‘hell’ - its not written ‘hell’,] by petitioning God to turn the hatred of our abusers into love for Him and for us; to open their spiritual eyes, ears, and understanding, and to soften their hardened hearts to Jesus’ Gospel of grace, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge of His Word. We may also pray for abusers to be humbled by their own sin to find their knees and be saved, (Jer. 2:19.) And we may ask God for their emotional and physical healing, should they repent.