I want to discuss forgiveness one more time ( . . this will come up again, count on it, and probably more than seven times!).
Recall that on September 9, 2018, I noted that we do not need forgiveness if we have an excuse. The thought is not original with me, but I cannot locate where I read this; please forgive . . . or rather, excuse me! 😉). But it seems rational to me.
Suppose some older guy with out-of state-plates is obviously looking for an address in front of our car. The ‘foreigner’ may irritate us and make us miss the next green light, but as there was no intent involved, the irritation is bearable.
Contrast that with a local hot rod who tries to stop us from reaching the light by swerving into our lane or blocking half a lane when he plans to turn out of our way. Our anger can boil over in such cases even if we reach the light in time to smoothly drive through. It is the intent that makes the difference.
Rabbi Morechai Dixler of Answers in Genesis says there are three Hebrew words for categories of actions. (Don’t be impressed, subscribe to the Lifeline blog at Project Genesis at https://torah.org/, and you can get a plethora of information as well as thoughtful replies to email.) So Rabbi Dixler explained to me the three categories are “oness – unavoidable actions, shogeg – careless actions, and mazid – deliberate malicious actions.” The rabbi says that “oness” of course does not need forgiveness, which makes sense. If an action is unavoidable it is hardly a fault that can be blamed on the actor.
He goes on to say “shogeg” and “mazid” do require forgiveness. Even careless actions call for forgiveness because the offender should have been more careful. Thus mistakes are more easily forgiven, or excused, but still require forgiveness if the offended party is to be at peace in his mind.
It still boils down to either excuses for mistakes or forgiveness for actions for which there is no excuse. But this is a pretty big distinction. Like Billy Joel sang, “you’re only human, you’re supposed to make mistakes.” Not exactly the best theology, as we were created for perfection in the Garden of Eden, but the parents messed up and every parent thereafter has done the same and we are going to do the same. It’s in our DNA.
All of us have sinned in the “fallen short of the mark” category (Romans 3:23), the excusable that having tried, we still cannot get it right on our own. Such offenses still require forgiveness from God and understanding from our associates that we are all the same in this. We are only human, and even if we are not ‘supposed’ to make mistakes, the fact is that we will. We will fail to listen when someone needs us. We will miss the turn and wind up in a fender-bender. We will not understand when we should, and the offenses will mount up, even those for which we have an equal mountain of excuses.
More significantly though, we will all sin (or should I say have already sinned?) in the “mazid” category, the deliberate actions that offend. There is not a human alive that has not also done that which is inexcusable. We may distinguish degrees of sinfulness, e.g. murder seems to be the most heinous to 21st century minds, whereas only coveting or only lying seem smaller and less offensive. But the lack of excuse makes any violation of the Big Ten just as severe (James 2:10-11).
However, God’s action to forgive us, even when we have done the inexcusable, is His mercy to us! Beyond that His grace gives us eternal life and other blessings, as mercy is not getting what we do deserve, and grace is getting something we do not deserve.
We are called in this same way to forgive the inexcusable in those who offend us. It takes deliberate action even when we do not feel “forgiving.” You see, God never commands us to feel anything. He only commands actions that can be obeyed, and our feelings are as fickle as sunshine in Kentucky. They change with whichever way the wind is blowing or whatever stimulus happens to be poking us. A gentle jab from a lover can make us swoon; the same jab from an adversary can send us into rage
When He says to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), it really does not matter how we feel about the enemy. We are to act lovingly toward them. And when He says we are to forgive each other (Matthew 6:12-14; Colossians 3:13), there is no caveat about feeling forgiving. We are simply to do it.
An interesting word study is to simply read through all the Scripture references that mention “forgive.” There are only 85 in the KJV, but 109 show up in the ESV, and 136 in the Amplified Bible. It is an easy thing to do with https://www.biblegateway.com/. Just enter it in the search window with your favorite translation and see what God and His people say about forgiving.
So there is really no excuse for not knowing what the Bible teaches about forgiving, only forgiveness for our ignorance. 😉