In a small town lived a young Christian woman named Erin who whole-heartedly followed the Bible's commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18, WEB) Whenever her neighbors were in trouble, they could always count on her for support, be it emotional, spiritual, or material. One day, her next-door neighbor and long-time friend Bob asked to borrow some money from her for an emergency. Remembering Jesus' words, "Give to him who asks you, and don't turn away him who desires to borrow from you," she un hesitantly wrote out a check for the needed amount. (Matthew 5:42)
Some months later, Bob knocked on her door and requested to borrow more money even though he still had not returned the amount he borrowed previously. After he explained that it was a family medical emergency, Erin wrote out another check to him. A few months later, he came over with the same request, saying simply, "I need more money."
Erin realized that Bob was starting to take advantage of her. What should she do?
If we were in her situation, what would be the right thing to do according to God's moral principles?
The Bible exhorts us to love everyone without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9). Our love should be the love that has been shown to us by Jesus, who laid down his own life for us (John 13:34). This kind of love is called "agape" in Greek. Such love "is patient and is kind; love doesn't envy. Love doesn't brag, is not proud, doesn't behave itself inappropriately, doesn't seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
So does this mean that we should allow others to take advantage of us? Quite on the contrary, we should not. Since such true love seeks only the good of others and "doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness," we need to disallow others to take advantage of us when we know about it. You see, taking advantage of anyone is a sin, rebellion against God's law. Those who take advantage of others in any way will be judged by God. Therefore, if we knowingly allow others to take advantage of us, we would let others think that taking advantage of others was acceptable in God's sight, and that would put them under God's wrath. Instead, we should rebuke them and not bear sin because of them. (Leviticus 19:17)
And that's exactly what Erin did, knowing that it was for Bob's own good. But she didn't leave Bob without any assistance--she offered to help him find a better job so he could support himself rather than depending on others. However, he didn't appreciate her good will. With vengeance, Bob began spreading malicious lies about Erin, and the rumors traveled throughout the small town like wildfire, reaching the ears of Erin's boyfriend, who chose to believe in the lies and consequently left her.
Heartbroken, Erin sought comfort in the Bible, which says, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) She thought to herself, "Yahweh is on my side. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6) She knew that she was innocent before God, and that was all that matters. We must know, too, that even if people falsely accuse and misjudge us, Yahweh God is the One who will vindicate us before all someday. (Romans 8:33; Malachi 3:16-18) Through Jesus Christ, God will judge everyone according to the works each person has ever done, good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10) He will be our Vindicator, as He said, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay." (Romans 12:19) When God justifies us, no one has the right to condemn us. Thus, we are not to take revenge ourselves under any circumstances or repay evil for evil. (Romans 12:17)
As Erin was reading the Gospel of Luke, a few knocks sounded on her door. She went over to the door and opened it, and there standing was Bob. "Please forgive me for the wrong I've done you," was the first thing he said. "I'm sorry for what I've done to you."
Upon seeing him, Erin felt anger boiling inside her. Then she remembered what Jesus said: "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in the day, and seven times returns, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4) She also remembered the times that she had done others wrong, and how she had sought for others' forgiveness afterward. So she smiled and said, "I forgive you." She walked to him and hugged him. He returned her hug. Reaching into his pocket, he took out the money he had borrowed from her. They chatted like old friends again, and in the middle of their conversation, Erin said, "A friend of mine is currently employing people for his company..."
So what can we learn from Erin's story? Well, let's summarize and clarify:
1) We are to treat our neighbor with agape love. The Bible admonishes us to seek our neighbor's good. (1 Corinthians 10:24) Our "neighbor" is anyone whom we come into contact with, not restricted to those who live next door, as illustrated by Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37.
2) We are not to knowingly allow others to take advantage of us. This is not to protect our personal rights; instead, this is for other people's own good. When we disallow people to take advantage of us, we are preventing them from coming under God's wrath and condemnation.
3) We must never take revenge when others do us wrong. Rather, we must leave retribution to God, who will repay everyone according to their works. Only God knows a person's heart and motives; therefore, only He can administer justice accurately and completely. However, leaving retribution in the hands of God doesn't excuse us from administering justice. For example, if we know of someone harming others, we must speak up about it and bring the perpetrator to court for a fair trial and have the just sentence executed. We must never remain silent of a crime we know about or give false testimonies. (Exodus 23:1-3)
4) When others sin against us or our loved ones, instead of taking revenge, we must rebuke them. Correcting others is to be done in their best interest. This permits others to understand what they did was wrong and change their behavior so they won't repeat the same wrong acts in the future.
5) When those who have done us wrong repent and ask for our forgiveness, we must grant it. Forgiving someone does not mean that we condone the wrong they have done to us; it simply allows us to show the kind of mercy God has shown us when we repent. Forgiveness also permits both parties--the wronged and the wrongdoer--to move on and improve. Now, there are those who do not truly repent; instead, they repeat the cycle of doing wrong and begging for forgiveness. In such cases, additional actions may need to be taken. For example, if a husband repeatedly abuses his wife then seeks forgiveness, the wife may need to seek new living arrangements to protect herself and her children from further abuse. If her husband truly repents afterward, the family can then reunite.
All these can be summed up in one commandment: "Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them." (Matthew 7:12) So, go and show your agape love!
~*~Q&A with Dr. Shirley~*~
Question: How should we deal with an unrepentant wrongdoer?
Answer: First off, before I answer this question, I need to lay down this vital fundamental Biblical principle: we reap what we sow. If we sow good deeds, we will reap positive consequences. If we sow evil deeds, we will reap negative consequences. If we don't immediately reap consequences, positive or negative, rest assured we will reap divine consequences from God on Judgment Day: rewards for those who live by His will, and punishment for those who refuse to live by His will. Yahweh will not be mocked, and we must not be ignorant. We are responsible for our actions.
It is erroneous to equate forgiveness with excusing someone of their wrongdoing; forgiveness does not cancel out consequences of our actions. Thus, even if we receive forgiveness for whatever wrong we've done, whether or not we've repented, we will have to face any consequences sooner or later. For example, robbery will result in a prison sentence and a criminal record. Even if our friends and family forgive us of our crime, we would have to face or live with the consequences in the form of discipline or punishment. That is called justice. Therefore, receiving forgiveness doesn't mean that we will escape any consequences that are rightly due.
With that being said, here's my answer to the question:
Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. But if he doesn't listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17) (The Jews during Jesus' day normally excluded themselves from tax collectors and gentiles, people other than Jews. So the Jews easily understood that Jesus was telling them to exclude themselves from unrepentant sinners.)
Here, Jesus indicated that if someone sinned against you and does not repent of his sin, we are to not associate with him "to the end that he may be ashamed." (2 Thessalonians 3:14) This may seem harsh at first, but it's only for the wrongdoer's own good, in order for him to realize their wrongdoing and repent. This tough love is to be done as unto a brother, not unto an enemy. (2 Thessalonians 15) Now, this disassociation does not mean that you are holding a grudge in your heart toward the wrongdoer--and we should never hold a grudge against anyone; what this means is that each wrongdoer needs to understand that every sinful deed done has its consequences and necessary disciplinary regulations. Again, we must remember the fact that God will not be mocked. We reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7) If we sow evil seeds, we will reap the judgment and justice called for. If someone molested your child, would you go over to the molester, hug him, and say, "Oh, that's okay"? Wouldn't that give the molester the impression that what he did was alright and therefore had the right to repeat the same sin in the future? Thus, to forgive someone without administering justice is the same as condoning and tolerating sin.
As every sin is different with varying degree of severity, we should treat each case accordingly. More serious sins, such as murder and rape, should be dealt in our justice system, while lesser sins, such as personal slander, can be treated with a simple rebuke to bring forth repentance from the wrongdoer. Remember, all disciplinary actions are done for the aim of achieving true repentance in a person. Disciplinary action that doesn't renew a person will merely yield a more vengeful person, and this is the problem with our prison system. It's well known that many criminals repeat the cycle of crime-incarceration-release-crime. Locking up a sinner is not the answer; Biblical discipline and reform is the answer, because "godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, which brings no regret. But the sorrow of the world works death." (2 Corinthians 7:10) In other words, simply feeling bad for the wrong we've done without changing our behavior is not true repentance, and false repentance will reap God's divine judgment. But if we truly feel sorry about what we've done and change our behavior, that's true repentance, which will lead to salvation (eternal life).
~*~Dr. Shirley's Corner~*~
Do you want personal, one-on-one guidance or help in better understanding the Bible? Then be my Bible buddy and e-mail me! I'd be more than happy to study the Bible with you via e-mail, without any cost to you. Our study will be in your own pace, in your style, at the comfort of your home. I'll answer Bible questions you may have, or help you better understand specific passages. You name it, and we'll do it! Just see me as your friend/guide/answer lady. I look forward to our journey together. Thank you.
~*~A Biblical Wisdom Nugget~*~
"Behold, Yahweh's hand is not shortened, that it can't save; neither his ear heavy, that it can't hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:1-2)
"Why doesn't God appear to us?" is the question that many of us have wondered about, yet we don't realize the significance of the request or its outcome. Yahweh is an absolutely holy God who cannot live among sinful people. When He stayed with the Israelites during the wilderness journey, those who serve Him had to be consecrated (set apart as holy) in order to go near Him. People doing sinful acts in His presence were punished. If it weren't for Moses' intercession, the entire Israelites might have been wiped out. So in order to have God with us, we must make ourselves clean first by putting our faith in Him and His Son Jesus and obeying His commands, which aren't hard to follow at all. All of His principles are to benefit us.
However, Yahweh does still personally communicate to His select few, devout Christians who sincerely love Him and His Son. Through the Bible, daily events, and our conscience, He speaks with those whose hearts are after His own heart, just like King David of Israel. If we want to have a relationship with Him--if we so desire and yearn for His nearness--we must follow the ways He has set out for us in His Word. We must abandon our sinful ways by yielding our hearts to Him and Jesus because our sins are what separate us from the holy God.
Yahweh's purpose for creating humans is to have fellowship with us. God wants to be near us. He offers His love to us abundantly. The problem is us: we have been pulling away from His embrace. We are the ones who are refusing His love, and turning our backs from Him. We are refusing to return His love. Yahweh is full of grace--He will not force Himself on us when we don't want Him. True love cannot be forced. Yahweh is patiently waiting for us to turn to Him. When will we ever return His love?
Let us "seek Yahweh while he may be found" and call on Him "while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to Yahweh, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)
May the grace and peace from Yahweh God and Jesus Christ be with you.!
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Dr. Shirley Cheng
Award-Winning Author with 27 Book Awards
Proclaimer of Jehovah God's Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ
Author/Contributor/Editor of 35 books by age 27, Poet, Motivational Speaker, Self-Empowerment Expert, Advocate
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