For Auld Lang Syne

A new year, a new beginning for most everyone in the world. But how do we start it?

Many make resolutions to do something that they know they need to: a diet, give up smoking, be more helpful to the needy….whatever.

As for me, I think the best way to start anew is to get past the past, and the only way to do that is to learn forgiveness.

And that’s not just a good idea- it is a commandment!


Forgiveness is self-centered

We usually think of a person who is forgiving as a compassionate, selfless being who loves people more than him or her self.

Not really.

Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood emotions in the world; well, at least I think that. Why? Because we have been taught that it is important to forgive someone who has hurt you so that they can feel better when they apologize. We see forgiveness, often, as something we do for their sake, but the truth is that we need to be forgiving for our own sake.

God has commanded that we be forgiving of others; read Matthew 6:14

 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

God is very clear, as Yeshua (Jesus) tells us, that we MUST forgive others their sins against us or we will not be forgiven.

The Lord’s Prayer that precedes this verse tells us we should pray for God to forgive us as we forgive others (And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), which is a statement of quid pro quo. In other words, when we pray to God (in the way Yeshua told us we should) we are telling God that He should forgive us in the same way we forgive others. So, obviously, if we are unwilling to forgive others then we are telling God it is OK to treat us the same way, i.e., do not forgive us our sins against Him. 

Yowsa!! Does that mean that even a person who has been Born Again, who has asked for forgiveness from God through Messiah and received it, can still be treated as one who has not been forgiven when he or she comes before the Throne of Judgement?

Seems that way, doesn’t it? I believe we are being told that when we pray to God to treat us as we treat others (think about Leviticus 18:19), yet we are unforgiving, then He should not forgive us, either. And that doesn’t mean forgiveness is revocable, it simply means we have told God it is OK to treat us the same way we treat others.

And here’s another important aspect to this: it makes no difference, whatsoever, whether or not the sinner asks us for forgiveness.

Essentially, we are permitting God to ignore His promise of forgiveness because we, ourselves, have failed to be forgiving. God is not reneging on His promise, we are rejecting it.

Scary, isn’t it? So, now can you see why forgiveness is self-centered? The very foundation stone of our forgiveness by God is the forgiveness we extend to others. If we refuse to forgive, we will not be forgiven. And that makes sense, when you think of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35.

Besides ensuring our own salvation, forgiving is the only way to release the pain. Understand, also, that when you forgive you don’t have to trust again- those are totally different things. Forgiveness is from God to us, and then from us to others, but trust is something that every individual has to earn.

This is also important to understand: your forgiveness of someone doesn’t make that person right with God, it makes YOU right with God. God is the only one (well, Yeshua also) who can forgive sin, and the sinner will have to ask for it from God, directly. If they repent and ask you to forgive them, it will make you both feel better, but overall it makes your relationship with God stronger and secures your salvation.

Forgiveness of others has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with you and your relationship with God, and will affect your salvation. So, Nu? -what could be more self-centered than that?

And you know what else? In this case, it’s OK to be self-centered.


Forget the Past

My undergraduate degree is in History, and one of the things we historians say is that history tends to repeat itself. This is (usually) because people don’t know their own history, so when the same types of events that caused one historical tragedy begin to coalesce once more, people can’t “read the warning signs” of the beginnings of another tragedy.

That’s a “world” view, meaning what we humans are taught. But God’s view is different.

God says to forget the past, and I think He has the better idea. After all, how can one look towards the future when you are always reviewing the past? I never liked the Jewish ….what do I call it? A celebration? a Holiday? I am thinking of Yom Hashoah, the remembrance of the Holocaust. It is a day where I have seen the Sanctuary of a synagogue covered in black and with pictures of the concentration camps. A day devoted to the past, with people reliving the horrors, they cry over things from half a century ago and their anger burns anew.

I don’t really want to remember the past because when we do we get mired in it. Yeshua said that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back isn’t fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62) so if we want to grow in the Lord and do more for God, we need to forget the past.

Doesn’t God forget the past? You bet He does, and thank Him for that! He tells us that when we are forgiven our past sins are as far from us as the East is from the West; that although we are stained scarlet red, we will be washed clean as new snow; that He will blot out the memory of our sins and they will be no more. That’s what forgetting the past is all about.

Forgetting the past means we have to let it go. If you hold on to something old, you can only have one hand left for reaching out to grab something new.  I remember in the martial arts classes I took that when someone grabs you with both hands, like you always see in the movies, that means both their hands are unable to protect them, and both your hands are free to attack them. It’s like the story of the person in the water holding on to their heavy bag of valuables- they want to be saved but they are dragged down to their death because they won’t let go. What they are saving from their past is preventing them from having a future.

Whatever has happened to us in the past, happy or sad, we need to let it go in order to grow in the Spirit. Given a choice, I would prefer to hold on to the happy memories and forget the bad ones, but even happy memories can be a hidden trap. You can’t hold on to something and let it go at the same time, so anything and everything of the past, good and bad, must be released so we have both hands free to grab hold of the future.

This is a hard word to hear, and even harder to do. I am no further along than you are, believe me, and I wish I could just forget so many things. Actually, I do forget a lot of things, but they are recent and important, like the names of people I see when worshipping every Friday, what I was supposed to bring home from work, and to turn the alarm on at night. I DO remember Donna’s birthday, our wedding anniversary and when we had our first date. I may be forgetful, but I’m not suicidal!

The point of today’s Drash is that we need to remember to forget. Put the pain behind us, put the sadness behind us, and look to the future. I know people, one in particular, who can’t forget the past because she wants it to be different. Apologies never helped make her feel better, and “venting” didn’t vent out the anger; it only added oxygen to the fire. I truly believe that “getting it off our chest” is a lie from the pit of Sheol- when we relive the pain, the frustration and the anger all it does is re-open the wound. You can’t heal a cut by pulling at it- you cover it, and forget about it.

God tells us, over and over, to look to the future. He says when we return and ask forgiveness for the past, He will forgive and it will be no more. Not an event, not a memory, not even a faint recollection of something that once happened. It will be as if it never was. All the Prophets told of the upcoming judgements, and they always ended up with a promise of future reconcilement, a regathering of the people and the establishment of God’s kingdom on Earth. The Bible is chock-full of God telling us to forget our past and concentrate on our future with Him.

There is no hope in the past, the present is over in a heartbeat, so the future is all that is left to us if we want to make things better. The world says to remember the past and memorialize that which has happened; God says to look to Him for a better future and to work towards the goal: as Shaul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24, we must run the race in such a way as to win the prize.

No one wins a race looking back.

Forgiveness Doesn’t Prevent Suffering

To err is human; to forgive, divine. How true. And we (should all) know that forgiveness is not just commanded of us, but it is the only way for those that have been hurt to heal. The pain doesn’t go away by reliving the event- it goes away by forgiving and moving on.

And the forgiveness we receive will be based on the forgiveness we give (read Matthew 6:14 if you don’t know that already.)

Now, here’s the kicker: the forgiveness we receive from God is immediate, but we don’t fully realize it until we are dead. Meanwhile, here on Earth we have to suffer the consequences of the sin that we committed.

Actually, I will go as far as to say that, since everyone sins and most people don’t care if they do or not, the ones that usually suffer the most from sin are not the sinners, but the ones sinned against. Oh, yes- the sinners will suffer, but that is also just like forgiveness in that those who sin and continue to sin will cause great pain and suffering while alive, but when they are dead, without the forgiveness of Messiah to protect them, their suffering will be exponentially worse than any and all the suffering they caused while alive. When you find it hard to forgive someone, as I do, try to remember that little tidbit of information and picture in your mind, just for a moment, what they will be facing on Judgement Day and what they will have to endure for all eternity.

As bad as what they may have done, what they will have done to them is much worse.

Let’s see a few examples of what I am talking about from the Manual: Abraham is certainly with God and forgiven for the lies he told about Sarah, causing her to be taken as wife for two different kings, but the people under that king suffered; Moses is most certainly with God and forgiven of his sin of murder and at the rock at Meribah, but he didn’t get to enter the Promised Land; David is most certainly with God and forgiven of his sins of adultery and murder but the son he produced from it died; thousands died from the plague because of the census David ordered; the kingdom was torn apart because of the sins of Solomon and, eventually, because of the sins of the kings of both Shomron (the Northern kingdom, Israel) and Judea, the Jewish people were scattered amongst the Nations and taken into captivity.

Here were sins committed by people that God forgave, yet there was great suffering by many others, who had nothing to do with the origin or commitance of that sin.

Sin sucks; it hurts people that we don’t mean to or want to hurt, and it hurts us, too. The worst thing about sin is that it drives a wedge between us and God. The greater the number of sins, the greater the distance between us and God. The good news is that God is everywhere, so even though sin separates us from God, spiritually, He is still always right there, at arm’s length and ready to reach out His hand so we can take hold of it when we ask for forgiveness: there is no distance between us and God (caused by our sins) that puts us beyond God’s reach.

For me, the desire to not sin, my T’Shuvah, is based mainly on wanting to please God. It is also based on not wanting to hurt anyone, and finally it is also based on my desire to not have to suffer. I am not talking about eternal suffering, because I have that one covered- thank you, Yeshua, for your kippah of forgiveness that protects me from myself for all eternity. No, I mean I do not want to suffer here and now. If I hurt God by sinning against Him, I hurt. If I hurt others by sinning against them, I hurt. It is the Ruach HaKodesh, God’s holy spirit living in me, that causes me pain when I sin. Before I accepted Yeshua and asked (and received) the Ruach, it didn’t hurt me; well, maybe a little, but not as much as now. So now, knowing the pain of sin, I don’t want it!

Sin is one of those things that hurts now and hurts later; it hurts you and it hurts others, and the only way to avoid it is to just not do it. And yet, even if we sin less and less every day (that is an attainable goal) we will still be sinned against and be hurt by the sin of others. The only way to stop that pain is to forgive them.

Ah, but that….is another story!

God’s forgiveness of our sin is like His Kingdom: it exists, but hasn’t arrived yet. God’s forgiveness is given when asked for but not realized until later, yet the suffering our sin causes is here and now, and the “Earthly” consequences of that sin are unavoidable.