Import jQuery

Damn. I have to forgive.

A month ago, I discovered some ugly things had been said about my family, and it came about in a rather public way. The people who had said these things were people close to my family. People who read this blog.

I was angry. These people were close to me and were disciples of Yeshua – if they thought my family was involved in sinful things, why didn’t they come to me? Isn’t that what disciples of Yeshua are supposed to do? These people were close to me, yet now I find multiple people had been saying and believing ugly rumors about my family. I felt betrayed and slandered.

My wife was hurt the most. Much of the jabber was directed at her and her life. She cried for about 3 days consecutively. These people were close to us, so it hurt her deeply.

I tried to comfort her. I set the record straight with the folks that pushed around rumors about us and those that believed the rumors. There was some apology, and some admittance of wrong.

Still, a month later, my wife remains hurt. Even though we’ve worked through some of the problems, there is still a lot of pain. She doesn’t want to even be around said people. Who can blame her? Who wouldn’t be uncomfortable around people who secretly said ugly things about you?

Messianic rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman summed it up nicely: it’s hard to forgive people, and for good reason:49134_655029226_1110060_n

The reason it is more difficult to reconcile with people than God is because we don’t always trust that people are sincere, or even if they are, they might commit the offense again. When it comes to offenses against us, we have long memories, and that is part of the problem.

-Dr. Michael Schiffman

It’s tempting, then, to not forgive at all. Plenty of choice phrases came to mind as I contemplated severing ties.

However, it turns out, worse things happen to you if you refuse forgiveness. And not some airy imagined thing, but real, tangible, life-influencing bad stuff occurs when you refuse forgiveness:

The real problem with holding back forgiveness from others is the price we pay. Many years ago, someone hurt my wife. I was extremely angry. The offender brushed it off. I stayed angry for five long, dark years. It made me bitter and poisoned me. After five years, I realized that the person I wanted to help was no longer hurting over it. She had moved on. The person I was mad at was going on his merry way and probably didn’t even consider his actions. The one I wanted to help wasn’t being helped, and the one I wanted to hurt wasn’t being hurt. The only one to suffer was me. God showed me that I needed to let go of the offense and forgive. When I did, I had an incredible sense of relief and peace. I went to the offender and told him I forgive him and hold nothing against him. His response was that he did nothing wrong. I let it go, because forgiveness is something I do, regardless of whether the person deserved it. God forgave me when I didn’t deserve it either.

-Dr. Michael Schiffman

I laughed reading that – 5 years of bitterness and refusal-to-forgive is finally overcome, and the response? “I did nothing wrong” – oh! Dunno’ about you folks, but for me, it’s at that point I’d lose it, I’d go all out and strangle the idiot, Macho Man Savage style.

Of course, it could be worse.

Saying, “I did nothing wrong, you have nothing to forgive me for!”, is not the worst you could do.

Ever watch a public figure apologize on television? It’s all, “I’m sorry you feel that way”, or alternately, “I’m sorry you’re offended.” This is the politician’s apology. It’s not an apology at all: it puts the blame on you, while not admitting wrong, but doing so in a way that appears to be an apology.


Humans are great at avoiding responsibility for wrongs. Nobody likes to admit wrong, so we invent clever, subtle ways to avoid accepting that we did something wrong.


Where do we go from here? Or practical: How do my wife and I move on? Something resonated in Schiffman’s post: forgive, because the relationship with that person is more important than the offense.

Person > Offense.

We don’t have to actually forget wrongs, but we have to learn to put them aside when we relate to people. Scripture teaches us that God forgives our sins so that they are not counted against us. We need to do this with others, and it is not easy. When someone has hurt me, it’s very difficult to let go, but that’s what I need to do. God wants us to make things right with our brothers before we come to him. Forgiveness is not pretending the offense never happened. It’s valuing the person more than the offense.

-Dr. Michael Schiffman

The people involved in this dispute read this blog. Some of them have offered an apology for some things, and for that I’m grateful. For the others, even if there is no apology, I am willing to forgive, knowing they are more valuable to me than the offense. I don’t want to let years go by with bitterness between us.

My mother told me a story about her father and her uncle Harry. They were two brothers who emigrated from Eastern Poland with their family in the early 20th century. They helped bring the entire family to America. Somewhere along the line my grandfather and his brother had a big fight, and didn’t speak to each other for 20 years. As a result, their children grew up not knowing each other. After 20 years, before the High Holy Days, they met each other while visiting the graves of their parents. Having not seen each other in all that time, they looked at each other, wept, and embraced. They had forgotten about what they quarreled.

-Dr. Michael Schiffman

That would suck. I don’t want years to pass with bitterness in place. We’ve got a short amount of time to live life – wasting 20 years on bitterness and cold war isn’t an attractive proposition to me! I don’t want that junk in my life, and I don’t want it for my family.

What if this happens again? Will my forgiving be rendered meaningless? It would be extremely painful. It would even more difficult to forgive a second time. Yeshua said to forgive 70 times 7. 7 is the Hebrew number of completion, perfection. Reading the text that way, it seems Yeshua is saying, “Keep forgiving until completion.” I have no idea how that would work. Actually, I can’t see it working practically without becoming a human doormat. Cross that bridge when I get there, I guess.

Messianic scholar J.K. McKee said recently forgiveness is a problem in our religious institutions:

He says the “bury the hatchet” movements are a dime a dozen, but asks, when do they actually work? When do people resolve the deep bitterness held against each other in our own movement?

I must admit, I don’t like Messianic blogger Derek Leman, for numerous offenses; he and his posts cause me more consternation and teeth gritting than any person outside the web. I should send him my dental bill. Messianic leader Boaz Michael and his organization First Fruits of Zion is estranged from me because he considers my community to be supersessionist false friends of Israel. (To be clear, neither Boaz Michael nor Derek Leman are being spoken of in the above text.)

How does that get resolved? I mean, I guess I forgive, sure. What next? I can’t pretend everything is OK. It’s not. Things are not OK. So after forgiving for past offenses, now what?

Where do you go after forgiving? Move on, I suppose. And treat the people kindly. Practical forgiveness, I hope. When Schiffman related he had, after 5 years, forgiven-without-receiving-apology, and hearing the response “I did nothing wrong!”, still, he just let it go.


That’s probably part of forgiving. “Let it go”. No response. No rebuttal. No defending self. No setting things right. Just let it go. It’s not fair. No justice there. He’s not repenting, in fact, he’s taunting you? Doesn’t matter, let it go. The good guy loses. The bad guy wins. You let it go.

Let it go. That’s part of forgiving, too. Come to think of it, that’s kind of what Yeshua did at his trial. I often have wondered why he was silent when his accusers tried him. Maybe it was part of forgiving. He didn’t have to set the record right. He just forgave, straight up. Let it go, even though his actual life was at stake. That’s something. That’s significant. I am glad to be a disciple of such a man.

Thanks for listening.


  1. Wow! This is the best blog you've posted in a long time (I'm sorry if that sounds bad, but I'm really impressed). The wonderful/horrible thing about it is that, when you realize you need to forgive someone, especially of a very old hurt, you (well, me anyway) start thinking about all of those people you (I) have hurt in the past and never reconciled with later.

    Well done, young man.

  2. I thought I'd throw a good one in, just for you, James. ;-)

  3. Judah, me and you are still on good terms, right?:) I mean, we still don't agree on many of the very same things Derek and Boaz have quarreled with you about, and I was sort of in the middle of this. Which makes me think - why not reconcile with both Derek and Boaz without waiting for them to retract whatever offending opinions they expressed toward certain areas of your belief system.

  4. You and I, Gene? As good (or bad) as ever! :grin:

    Reconcile means to harmonize. My views are not in harmony with Boaz's, for example. I've forgiven him for offenses. Outside of our beliefs, what's left to reconcile? Understanding that forgetting is not required of forgiving, what's left to reconcile?

  5. There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. While both are desirable, there are situations where reconciliation isn't going to happen, at least in the short run (and maybe never), depending on the circumstances. I learned this from talking to Christian battered wives who forgave their (now ex-) husbands but could not reconcile and live with them for fear of their lives and the lives of their children.

    That said, any issues between Boaz, Derek, and Judah are not life-threatening or even particularly stressful (depending on what stresses you out). I don't agree with Judah on everything but I still consider him a friend. I also consider Boaz a friend.

    We aren't going to all come together and agree on our theologies and our doctrines, at least in some cases. However, I'd like to maintain a dialog with all the various parties involved because someday, we'll all be at the same "feast" together, along with guys like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and who knows who else?).

    Yeah, I'm human and some of the past blogosphere conversations have hurt (If you prick us, do we not bleed? Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1). That we disagree doesn't mean we should close doors or burn bridges (what's that Yeshua said about "peacemakers"?).

  6. Oh (sticking my neck out here) Judah, did you ask Boaz if anything you said or did hurt him? If it did, did you ask for his forgiveness? (I know I'm going to get in trouble for this but my conscience wouldn't let me keep my mouth shut)

  7. This is a lesson that has been coming up over and over in my life lately. Let's just say that living around the corner from your in-laws provides plenty of opportunities to practice forgiving and being forgiven!

  8. @Judah, thanks for a meaty one! And for what it's worth, Boaz and Derek are the same for me < grin >.

    Yes, forgiving is so important. I often remind myself that its better not to have to forgive: to let things roll of my back, and not to take offense. Likewise, to avoid giving offense - although that seems harder to do < grin >.

  9. Thank you, Judah. I'm usually pretty quick to decide I don't want toxic unforgiveness in my life. But then there's the zinger out of the blue that takes your breath away... and leave you never wanting a relationship with the person again. I've been known to sulk over those for months or years.

    Even a non-Jewish person such as myself can agree that James is right when he says that we can't burn our bridges, even if it takes time for relationship and communication to reestablish.

  10. Reconcilation in much of the Messianic world among teachers and leaders is like disarming a nuclear bomb. It is too high a risk. When attempts at reconcilation are made, things can actually get worse, and a tenuous peace can turn into a major shooting war.

    Forgiving, leaving one another alone, and giving one's rivals their necessary "space" is a better course of action--at least from how I see it.

  11. "Forgiving, leaving one another alone, and giving one's rivals their necessary "space" is a better course of action--at least from how I see it."

    I think that if one doesn't agree with a particular theology or a publicly published teacher one should be free to express his/her views and disagreements, with this caveat: one should just speak of the facts and avoid personalizing the criticism (and always leave out the person's family out of it). For example, instead of labeling such and such a teacher as "supersessionist" or demean them by calling them names, one should point out which particular view expressed by a teacher is "supersessionist" and include all the supporting evidence.

  12. Nice one Judah.

    This all sounds a bit disturbing, really.

    Family insults are the lowest of the low.

    I really hope it's no-one I've come into contact with on the blogs.

  13. As a tenn I had some 12 step experience. At the time the slogan "Let Go and Let God" was important to me because of estrangement with my father. I later had to forgive him in absentia (he died when I was 18).... and I have had to do that with others in my life as well.

    As much as I may WANT and work toward full reconciliation I know that not all people are interested or capable of this. So, as I recently re-acknowledged in my own life. I too must Let Go and Let God.

    I'm sorry your family (and your wife) was hurt.


  14. @Joe,

    Nope, nobody in the blog world, no one you know.

  15. Seems like we're talking about two overlapping circumstances: the original situation involving Judah's family/friends, conflicts, and forgiving, and the conflicts we all encounter in the various incarnations of the "Messianic" blogosphere.

    I think that if one doesn't agree with a particular theology or a publicly published teacher one should be free to express his/her views and disagreements, with this caveat: one should just speak of the facts and avoid personalizing the criticism...

    Not personalizing conflict is one of *the* biggest difficulties we human beings have. It's very hard to keep our emotions out of it when someone disagrees with a position near and dear to our hearts and goes on to insult us (or we perceive that we've been insulted). It's even harder, after an emotional conflict, to forgive the other person or worse, to ask for the other person's forgiveness. Yet, the issue will always stand between us and the other person and between us and God until we address it.

    Some people choose never to address their "unfinished business" and live with the unhealed wound, potentially for the rest of their lives. The quote of Dr. Schiffman said he was "bitter and poisoned" for five years.

    The solution takes a lot of moral courage and the other party might not be gracious about it...but as Dr. Schiffman illustrated, it does have its rewards.

  16. Reconcilation in much of the Messianic world among teachers and leaders is like disarming a nuclear bomb... Forgiving, leaving one another alone, and giving one's rivals their necessary "space" is a better course of action--at least from how I see it.

    @John, I agree. The "giving space" does not have to be incommunicado, although sometimes even that is best.

  17. "If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive." -Mother Teresa

    I might add, and ask for forgiveness.

  18. Let me put it in perspective guys,
    Where would The nation of Israel be today if it were to forgive ans not retaliate for every terrorost aggrassion?

    Having said that,I share Juda's feelings towards Derek and Boaz, but thay are not THAT important in my my life as not to forgive.

  19. Sure. That's the flipside: always forgive? And who - everyone? (Murderers? Terrorists? Nazis?)

    Possible solution: people should forgive, the state isn't required to.

  20. I seriously doubt you can compare Boaz and Derek to murders and terrorists, so using such extreme examples doesn't apply. Besides, I wasn't suggesting just forgiving, but, if Derek for example, had caused discomfort or emotional pain to Boaz during the past "incident", should he ask for Boaz's forgiveness?

    I realize that's an unpopular suggestion, but is it wrong from God's point of view?

  21. Darn, I meant, "If Judah, for example..." Not "Derek". My bad.

  22. Hey! I'm over 50. It'll happen to you. Just wait, young man. ;-)

  23. You said it, brother. I have nothing to offer you but prayers that G-d sustains you. I do believe, of all the things we're asked to do, forgiveness is the hardest (especially of people who we know know better). I wonder sometimes how HaShem forgives us over and over... but He is all-powerful and all-loving... and all the justice was poured out on Yeshua on the cross.

    Shalom, Judah.

  24. If it's any consolation, forgiving and letting go towards those who have harmed, has been the hardest thing to do, yet has caused me to develop most in maturity. Real forgiving, where you let go... in my opinion, is more dying to self than anything else you can do. It is Yeshua giving his life for others, and saying forgive them father, they don't know what they are doing. I'm happy my blog entry helped. Be well

  25. The following verses are such a magnificent example of God and his forgiveness Gen. 19:5-8 Judges 11:39, Judges 19:22-25 Deuteronomy 22:28-29, and Numbers 31:17-18.


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