We have all been hurt by someone in our life. The hurt may be so severe, the betrayal so devastating, that we can never imagine being able to forgive that person. This can pose a problem for true Christians because we are supposed to forgive one another freely from the heart. Perhaps you recall the time when Peter asked Jesus about this.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!
(Matthew 18:21, 22 BSB)
Immediately after uttering the command to forgive 77 times, Jesus provides an illustration that speaks of what is needed to get into the kingdom of heaven. Starting at Matthew 18:23, he tells of a king who forgave one of his servants who owed him a great amount of money. Later, when this slave had the occasion to do the same for a fellow slave who owed him a very small amount of money by comparison, he was not forgiving. The king learned of this heartless action, and reinstated the debt he had previously forgiven, and then had the slave thrown in prison making it impossible for him to pay off the debt.
Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “My heavenly Father will also deal with you in the same way if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35 NWT)
Does that mean that no matter what a person has done to us, we have to forgive them? Are there no conditions that might require us to withhold forgiveness? Are we supposed to forgive all the people all the time?
No, we are not. How can I be so sure? Let’s start with the fruit of the spirit which we discussed in our last video. Notice how Paul sums it up?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 NKJV)
“Against such there is no law.” What does that mean? Simply that there is no rule limiting or restricting the exercise of these nine qualities. There are many things in life that are good, but which in excess are bad. Water is good. In fact, water is needed for us to live. Yet drink too much water, and you will kill yourself. With these nine qualities there is no such thing as too much. You cannot have too much love or too much faith. With these nine qualities, more is always better. However, there are other good qualities and other good actions which can do harm in excess. Such is the case with the quality of forgiveness. Too much can actually do harm.
Let us start by re-examining the parable of the King at Matthew 18:23.
After telling Peter to give up to 77 times, Jesus provided this parable by way of illustration. Notice how it begins:
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his master commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made.” (Matthew 18:23-25 NASB)
The king was not in a forgiving mood. He was about to exact payment. What changed his mind?
“So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the master of that slave felt compassion, and he released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:26, 27 NASB)
The slave pleaded for forgiveness, and expressed a willingness to set things right.
In the parallel account, the writer Luke gives us a little more perspective.
“So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister a sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3, 4 NIV)
From this, we see that while we should be willing to forgive, the condition upon which that forgiveness is based is some sign of repentance on the part of the one who has sinned against us. If there is no evidence of a repentant heart, then there is no basis for forgiveness.
“But wait a minute,” some will say. “Didn’t Jesus on the cross ask God to forgive everybody? There was no repentance then, was there? But he asked that they be forgiven anyway.”
This verse is very appealing to those who believe in universal salvation. Don’t worry. Eventually everybody is going to be saved.
Well, let’s look that up.
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)
If you look up this verse on Biblehub.com in the parallel Bible mode which lists a couple of dozen major Bible translations, you will have no reason to doubt its authenticity. There is nothing there to cause you to think that you are reading anything other then pure Bible canon. The same can be said for the New World Translation 2013 Edition, the so-called Silver Sword. But then, that Bible version was not translated by Bible scholars, so I wouldn’t put much stock in it.
The same cannot be said for the New World Translation Reference Bible, I noticed it placed verse 34 in double square quotes which caused me to look up the footnote which read:
אCVgSyc,p insert these bracketed words; P75BD*WSys omit.
Those symbols represent ancient codices and manuscripts that do not contain this verse. These are:
- Codex Sinaiticus, Gr., fourth cent. C.E., British Museum, H.S., G.S.
- Papyrus Bodmer 14, 15, Gr., c. 200 C.E., Geneva, G.S.
- Vatican ms 1209, Gr., fourth cent. C.E., Vatican City, Rome, H.S., G.S.
- Bezae Codices, Gr. and Lat., fifth and sixth cent. C.E., Cambridge, England, G.S.
- Freer Gospels, fifth cent. C.E., Washington, D.C.
- Sinaitic Syriac codex, fourth and fifth cent. C.E., Gospels.
Given that this verse is disputed, perhaps we can figure out whether or not it belongs in the Bible canon based on its harmony, or lack of harmony, with the rest of Scripture.
In Matthew chapter 9 verse two, Jesus tells a paralytic man that his sins are forgiven, and in verse six he tells the crowd “but the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:2 NWT).
At John 5:22 Jesus tells us, “…the Father judges no one, but has assigned all judgment to the Son…” (BSB).
Given that Jesus has the power to forgive sins and that all judgment had been entrusted to him by the Father, why would he ask the Father to forgive his executioners and their supporters? Why not just do it himself?
But there is more. As we continue to read the account in Luke, we find an interesting development.
According to Matthew and Mark, the two robbers who were crucified with Jesus hurled abuses at him. Then, one had a change of heart. We read:
“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other responded, and rebuking him, said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our crimes; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”” (Luke 23:39-43 NASB)
So one evildoer repented, and the other didn’t. Did Jesus forgive both, or just the one? All we can say for sure is that the one who asked for forgiveness was granted the assurance of being with Jesus in Paradise.
But there is still more.
“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the entire land until the ninth hour, because the sun stopped shining; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.” (Luke 23:44, 45 NASB)
Matthew also relates that there was an earthquake. What was the impact off these terrifying phenomena on the people viewing the scene?
“Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “This man was in fact innocent.” And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, after watching what had happened, began to return home, beating their chests.” (Luke 23:47, 48 NASB)
This helps us to better understand the reaction of the crowd of Jews 50 days later at Pentecost when Peter told them, “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” (Acts 2:36, 37 NLT)
The events surrounding Jesus’ death, the three-hour-long darkness, the temple curtain being ripped in two, the earthquake… All these things caused the people to realize they had done something very wrong. They went home beating their chests. So, when Peter gave his speech, their hearts were ready. They wanted to know what to do to put things right. What did Peter tell them to do to get forgiveness from God?
Did Peter say, “Ah, don’t worry about it. God already forgave you when Jesus asked him to back when he was dying on the cross you put him on? You see, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, everybody is going to get saved. Just relax and go home.”
No, “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NLT)
They had to repent to get forgiveness of sins.
There are actually two phases to gain forgiveness. One is to repent; to acknowledge that you were wrong. The second is conversion, to turn away from the wrong course to a new course. At Pentecost, that meant getting baptized. Over three thousand were baptized that day.
This process also works for sins of a personal nature. Let us say that a person has defrauded you of some money. If they won’t acknowledge the wrongdoing, if they won’t ask you to forgive them, then you are under no obligation to do so. What if they do ask for forgiveness? In the case of Jesus’ illustration, both slaves didn’t ask that the debt be forgiven, only that they be given more time. They showed a desire to set matters straight. It is easy to forgive someone making a sincere apology, one who is cut to the heart. That sincerity is evident when the person makes an effort to do more than simply say, “I’m sorry.” We want to feel that it isn’t just an insincere excuse. We want to believe that it won’t happen again.
The quality of forgiveness is, like all good qualities, governed by love. Love seeks to benefit another. Withholding forgiveness from a truly repentant heart is not loving. However, granting forgiveness when there is no repentance is also unloving as we could just be enabling the person to continue to engage in wrongdoing. The Bible warns us, “When the sentence for a crime is not speedily executed, the hearts of men become fully set on doing evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 BSB)
We should also be aware that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that they don’t have to suffer any consequences for their wrongdoing. For example, a husband may sin against his wife by committing adultery with another woman—or another man, for that matter. He may be very sincere when he repents and asks for her forgiveness, and so she may grant him forgiveness. But that doesn’t mean the marital contract isn’t still broken. She is still free to remarry and not obliged to remain with him.
Jehovah forgave King David for his sin in conspiring to murder the husband of Bathsheba, but there were still consequences. The child of their adultery died. Then there was the time that King David disobeyed God’s command and numbered the men of Israel to determine his military might. The anger of God came upon him and Israel. David asked for forgiveness.
“. . .David then said to the true God: “I have sinned greatly by doing this. And now, please, forgive your servant’s error, for I have acted very foolishly.”” (1 Chronicles 21:8)
However, there were still consequences. 70,000 Israelites died in a three-day scourge brought about by Jehovah. “That doesn’t seem fair,” you might say. Well, Jehovah warned the Israelites that there would be consequences to their choosing a human king over him. They sinned by rejecting him. Did they repent of that sin? No, there is no record of the nation ever asking God for forgiveness because they rejected him.
Of course, we all die at God’s hand. Whether we die of old age or disease because the wages of sin is death, or whether some die directly at God’s hand as did the 70,000 Israelites; either way, it is only for a time. Jesus spoke of a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
The point is that we all fall asleep in death because we are sinners and we will be awakened in the resurrection when Jesus calls. But if we want to avoid the second death, we need to repent. Forgiveness follows repentance. Sadly, a great many of us would rather die than apologize for anything. It is remarkable how seemingly impossible it is for some to utter those three little words, “I was wrong”, and the other three, “I am sorry”.
Yet, apologizing is the way that we can express love. Repenting for wrongs committed helps to heal wounds, to repair broken relationships, to reconnect with others…to reconnect with God.
Do not fool yourself. The judge of all the earth will not forgive any of us unless you ask him to, and you had better mean it, because unlike us humans, Jesus, whom the Father has appointed to do all the judging, can read the heart of Man.
There is another aspect to forgiveness that we haven’t covered yet. Jesus’ parable of the King and the two slaves from Matthew 18 deals with it. It has to do with the quality of mercy. We will analyze that in our next video. Until then, thank you for your time and your support.
Bravo Nicole J’aime simplement la façon dont vous raisonnez à partir des Écritures avec les témoins. Personnellement, je trouve que les Témoins de Jéhovah 90% d’entre eux sont des bébés dans la vérité, ils ne peuvent pas se décider sur le raisonnement à partir des Écritures. restez près de Jéhovah Dieu et de son fils Jésus-Christ et de sa parole, la Bible continue à partager avec nous ce que vous apprenez de la Bible. J’essaie de susciter la curiosité des témoins avec lesquels je m’associe pour leur faire réfléchir par eux-mêmes et être le maître de leur propre foi et… Read more »
Good morning Meleti
Do you think the organisation is 95% Jewish religion and 5% Christian?
All the conversation during the meetings, witnessing it’s all centred around Jehovah and not Jesus Christ he is only a footnote to the organisation.
The law was a shadow of the good things to come the reality being in Jesus Christ but yet all what I hear from the organisation is only about Jehovah God, pure worship and so forth.
what do you and the brothers and sisters think I wonder
Definitely. I wrote once a long time back that it is a Judeo-Christian religion with heavy emphasis on the “Judeo”.
La semaine dernière un texte du jour était basé sur 2 Corinthiens 1 : 24 “Non que nous dominions sur votre foi, mais nous sommes des compagnons de travail pour votre joie, car c’est par [votre] foi que vous êtes debout.” Ce texte (que j’aime beaucoup) m’a été cité au tout début d’une de mes conversations avec les anciens. Très bien. On était d’accord. Mais quelle fut la suite ? Nous avons parlé entre autres du pain et du vin. Quels sont les versets qu’ils m’ont cités pour appuyer le fait de ne pas participer ? AUCUN ! Un ancien… Read more »
That is such a good comment, Fani, that I have to reprint it in autotranslated English for the benefit of others. I don’t speak French unfortunately, so I can’t tweak the translation. ——- Last week a daily text was based on 2 Corinthians 1:24 “Not that we rule over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy, for it is by [your] faith that you stand.” This text (which I like a lot) was quoted to me at the very beginning of one of my conversations with the elders. Very good. We agreed. But what was next? We… Read more »
Good morning Meleti I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is a Jehovah’s Witness for many years. I asked him a simple question the great crowd that is mentioned in Revelation chapter 7 where is it? Is it in heaven, or on the earth? As every Jehovah’s Witness will tell you, great crowd is here on the earth, however I asked him to turn to Revelation 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. I asked my friend again where is this great crowd found in… Read more »
Hi Meleti Under Bible musing I’m just wondering is it possible for us to share some experiences that we had with some witnesses and their reactions to certain Scriptures. I’m just thinking out loud as I’m sure like myself there are a great number of brothers and sisters who are still attached to the organisation and that we are trying to do our best to make them think about some of the things that we are learning from this website. I know this is a watchtower reviewer however either under Bible musing as you have it or under experiences that… Read more »
Not a bad idea, but I think we’ll all have experiences in the same range: Some brothers (m/f) are open-minded and accepting of what we learn from the Scriptures, some are a bit paranoid and run to the elders for everything that sounds unusual / unfamiliar. The majority will be cautiously somewhere in between. We, Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group, like to think we’re different from the world. I’m afraid that, as a group, we’re not that different at all. Having been properly in the organisation for some years now, I should say that most of this perceived difference is… Read more »
I think it might prove helpful and for many cathartic. If any are willing to do so, I would welcome their contributions. I would ask that names and places be “changed to protect the innocent”, or rather, “changed to frustrate the litigious”. Our purpose isn’t to seek vengeance, since that is for the Lord to do, but rather to provide a means for the emotional healing to begin.
Thanks Eric for your Bright explanation about the forgive. This point falls at point. There are fex months, I have a lot of problems with my neighbour. He doesn’t respect the law of properties, construction, etc.. My wife and me recpect all the neighbours around our house, but with him, we are tired. I need to take justice, but what will be the result? And i read your article, and i think we must let this person in her condition, and not answer at there insults. But if he changes in his comportment, and he talks me whith the forgive,… Read more »
This is what the apostle Paul was writing about in Romans 12:17-13:7. The instruction for you, in that respect, is not to return evil for evil, but to continue peaceable, even with that difficult neighbour. However, in order to enable you to do that, Jehovah has allowed the superior authorities in their relative place, to act as “God’s minister to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad” (Rom. 13:4). Hence, you are encouraged to use the judicial system in your country (the courts) to settle matters between yourself and your neighbour. Leaving the matter with the Court is… Read more »
Thank you for your great encouragement, Ad. You have right. I have thinking the same thing, because i want to obey at the superior autorities. This is that we have learned since childhood. But I live in France. This is not a country in war! This is “the country of liberties”, that’s how they say it. I have had a meet whith the Mayor of my village. He doesn’t want to take action, even if he’s agree with me !! I have already an action to the court about the construction of my house. We were tricked by a fraudulent… Read more »
Bonjour Pierrot Sud
Je suis désolée pour tes ennuis de voisinage mais je suis tellement contente de rencontrer même virtuellement un frère français sur ce site.
D’où es tu ? Du sud de la France ?
Moi je suis près de Bordeaux.
Si tu veux communiquer avec moi, je te donne mon mail :
Mes frères, excusez moi de ce commentaire très personnel.
Ne vous inquiétez pas, Nicole. Je suis très heureux que nos frères et sœurs puissent utiliser ce site pour entrer en contact les uns avec les autres. Pour moi, l’un de nos objectifs les plus importants est de nous retrouver localement afin de former de petites congrégations familiales.
Jéremie 36:3 Quand la maison de Juda entendra tout le mal que je pense lui faire, peut-être reviendront-il chacun de leur mauvaise voie; alors je pardonnerai leur iniquité et leur péché.” Par la bouche de Jérémie Jéhovah dit qu’il pourra encore pardonner si Juda abandonne sa mauvaise voie. Tout est possible s’il y a repentance. Jehovah peut même changer sa volonté devant la repentance. Dieu avait décidé de détruire Jérusalem ; il était prêt à changer sa décision devant des actions de repentance. Israël n’a pas donné des actes de repentance. Jéhovah n’a plus pardonné. Paul déclare : 1 Timothée… Read more »
Merci beaucoup d’avoir partagé ces pensées scripturaires perspicaces.
Thank you for putting forgiveness in perspective, something that many desperately need, I’m afraid. In anticipation of your next video, I would already note how this implements a method to select a number of “kings and priests” who will not be corrupted. Exercising forgiveness and mercy requires a delicate balance of some serious personal qualities, good judgement (perception) and courage to act regardless of the circumstances. I’m reminding a test that I did on personal priorities recently. That it was related to work is a minor detail. I found it curious that I was part of a minority to have… Read more »
Thank you, Ad_Lang. We are very much on the same page with regard to our mutual understanding of mercy and its place in our salvation. Thanks for sharing the thought with 2 Peter 2:20-22. That will be useful in the video to follow the one on mercy. Much obliged.