By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
Scripture depicts our heart as a dishonest and desperately sick. It has the amazing ability to confirm and convince us of any reality we believe exists. Our heart can alter our perception of other people, as well as ourselves. Even those with the best intensions can fall victim to confirmation bias.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV): The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Confirmation bias is the ability to take any situation and use it to confirm our predisposed beliefs. If we see ourselves as a good person, we will be able to rationalize any behavior. If someone we admired and respected behaved in a less than desirable manner, our opinion of him or her would allow us to be more understanding of the situation. The opposite also tends to be true. If we do not respect the person, every mistake they make further proves our opinion of them. Since humans do not have the ability to comprehend the heart, they lean on appearance when making their judgement. It is the chief difficulty we face when attempting to require actions as a way to judge another’s heart. The fact is we are so bad at judging hearts; we cannot understand our own, let alone another’s.
1 John 3:16-22 (ESV): By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
If we want to be confident in our salvation, all of our actions need to be motivated by love. To love God is to keep His commandments and to abide in Him until death. John says we know love by the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Love is selflessly giving for those and to those who cannot repay you for your love and kindness. We see this with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). He gave his time and showed compassion for the man beaten and robbed. When the Samaritan took him to the inn, he told the innkeeper, he would return to pay his bill. We see the same type of compassion showed by Paul when he was talking about paying Onesimus’ debt (Philemon 1:19). If we want to be confident we are pleasing God, our actions must be selfless, and motivated by love and compassion.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
In Luke 6, we find Jesus has chosen his twelve disciples (Luke 6:13-16). After Jesus chose His twelve, he started to heal the sick and remove the unclean spirits. He then moved onto what is generally referred to as the Beatitudes and the Woes. In them, Jesus tells us what is required to be blessed; as well as what is required to be of sorrow and woe. It is a blessing to be hated, excluded, and reviled in the name of the Lord (Luke 6:22). It is woeful to be liked by everyone and to be satisfied with the joys of the world. Jesus wants us to know we can find blessings in our suffering if we are not concerned with earthly satisfaction. Understanding this, Jesus then felt it important to explain how we should treat those who hate, exclude, and revile us.
Luke 6:27-31 (NKJV): “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
Jesus expects His followers to treat everyone with love and forgiveness. By describing them as “enemies”, one can conclude they have not shown any remorse for their mistreatment of us. At a young we were taught to apologize for our misdeeds, which indeed we should. However, if someone does not apologize, we are not entitled to treat him or her any differently.
Luke 6:32-36 (NKJV): “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
To be a resident of the world, you only have to love those who love you. If you want to be a child of the Most High God, you have to behave like the Most High God. God shows mercy and kindness to the “unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35). Christians are held to a higher standard and are expected to be benevolent to those who wrong us. We need to consider, (1) what benefit is it to only treat those who honor us with honor; (2) what level of appreciation is it for us to only love those who shower us with kindness and affection; and (3) how forgiving is someone who requires remorse from the person before they can forgive them? Jesus makes it clear our actions are to be merciful and full of love, independent of their behavior.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
When discussing forgiveness, do we have the ability to punish the person who wronged us? Oftentimes, when making the case for the ability to forgive with conditions, we quote Bible verses where God’s forgiveness included a punishment. It is true, there are examples of God forgiving and then punishing those He forgave. We find an example of this in the Old Testament when God forgave the Israelites, but still punished them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
Leviticus 19:18 (ESV): You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
While this statement is true, Jehovah does not give us the authority to punish someone we forgive. There are many reasons for this, with the most obvious reason being, we cannot judge someone’s heart. If we could properly judge someone’s heart, we could be trusted to understand his or her motive and true intensions. There are two key difference between God and us; He judges the heart and all of His actions focus on saving souls. Our punishments are based on preconceived notions and the desire for self-aggrandizement. We do not like being wronged and believe an apology is the least someone could do to earn our forgiveness.
Romans 12:17-21 (ESV): Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Christians are not encouraged to punish the actions of others. Instead, they are commanded to leave the wrath to God. James explains why, as the wrath of man does not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Even if someone only required an apology to forgive another… are they not seeking to avenge their mistreatment? Whether the person apologizes or not, Scripture makes is very clear we are to treat everyone (friend or foe) with love. The Apostle Paul states, any action completed without love does not benefit us (1 Corinthians 13:3). We are to forgive others in love, because God loves and forgives us of much more. If we require some form of penitence, how did we determine what was required? By compelling an apology, can we be certain someone has repented? Since repentance is a change in one’s heart and mind, only God is able to determine matters of the heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We can only judge by outward appearance, which is unreliable because we are judging based on our personal dispositions (1 Samuel 16:7). We must rely on God’s vengeance and not our own.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr
Throughout the New Testament, Christians are expected to “forgive as we have been forgiven”. This brings the natural question of when and how we were forgiven. Many will submit: we are forgiven when we confess Jesus is the son of God and are baptized for the remission of sin. This is often used as a justification that humans do not have to forgive unless the person does something first. Sometimes, this can be as simple as saying, “I’m sorry”; but for others, they believe there is a path of redemption that must be satisfied.
Genesis 22:8-12 (NKJV): And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
As early as Genesis, we can see the foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. What action did you take to cause God to send His son to die on the cross for your sins? At least for me, I did not do anything to deserve such an act of love and forgiveness. Many conclude that our need to be baptized for the remission of sin proves we can demand action before forgiving others. However, the fact that we find ourselves with a path to restoration before acknowledging our sinful nature reflects otherwise. If Jehovah waited for us to prove we deserve Jesus to die for us, He would still be waiting. Our death with Jesus in the watery grave of baptism is the only way for us to purify our corruptible body (1 Peter 1:23). Without it, we could not be rejoined with God, because he is the absence of evil. We see this confirmed when Jesus embodied our sins on the cross and Jehovah forsook Him (Matthew 27:46). As sinners ourselves, we do not have the same reaction or disdain for sin. Therefore, we cannot require others to perform an act of purification to interact with us. We are to do all things in love; and love requires us to be unprovoked, be patient, bear all things, believe all things, and endure all things. Can you confidently say requiring some form of penitence falls under the definition of love? I find it difficult, to say the least.
By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
James 5:3 (ESV): Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
The thought-provoking element about this verse is the fact that gold and silver do not actually corrode. The alloys or impure materials mixed with gold are what corrodes and are susceptible to rust. That is why rusted or corroded gold will be evidence used against us. Christians are to remain pure and unblemished from the world; so if our gold can rust, it must be impure and mixed with some tainted minerals.
Ephesians 5:27 (NKJV): that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
On the last day, our judgment will be based on the word of God found in the Bible.
John 12:48 (NIV): There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.
There is nothing more pure than God’s word, yet we find Christians frequently speaking where the Bible does not speak. With the best intentions we change concepts from the Bible to become less confrontational and more acceptable to the masses. In actuality, the road to destruction is the wide road that many will walk, while the narrow road is the path that leads to salvation. When we are entertaining to the masses, we are likely mixing what is pure with what is impure. Our focus should not be on the treasures of luxury found on earth, but on the treasures of righteousness found in heaven. Remember, those who store their treasures on earth will be susceptible to rust and corrosion, while those who store their treasures in heaven will remain pure and incorruptible.
Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV): “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We cannot please both man and God. Every time we focus on the word of God, our treasures are being stored in heaven; every time we focus on the traditions of man, our treasures are being stored here on earth. Rusting is a slow process that happens over time – be ever vigilant and aware of where your treasures are being stored.