Category: Living in the Image of God

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Living in the Image of God M03S14

To get reconciliation, if a person sins against you and repents, forgive them; if you sin against another, repent and seek forgiveness. Reconciliation endures if founded on repentance and forgiveness but would be meaningless and short-lived if not. As an example, Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) forgave and reconciled with his brothers after he verified that they had repented from sin they committed against him. Their reconciliation paved the way for subsequent growth and prosperity of the nation of Israel.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation 13:15

In this bible study session, we focus on understanding the relationship of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. As we discuss in a previous study, repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness. If a person sins against you and repents, then forgive them. Similarly, if you commit sin, repent and ask for forgiveness from the injured party.

Thus, repentance leads to forgiveness. Also, forgiveness leads to reconciliation. Our discussion in this study focuses on understanding that repentance and forgiveness provide a solid foundation for meaningful and lasting reconciliation and for a bountiful harvest in human interactions and relationships.

We begin with Christ teaching in Matthew 5:23–24 to understand the priority and process of reconciliation in human interactions. Also in the study, we draw an example from the life of Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) regarding his reconciliation with his brothers. We see that Joseph first verified that his brothers had repented from a great sin they committed against him, then he forgave them, and reconciled with them. Their reconciliation cleared the way for the nation of Israel to relocate to Egypt, where they survived the great famine, multiplied, and prospered.

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Repentance

Living in the Image of God M03S13

Repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness and consists of three ordered steps: (1) recognition that you have sinned, feeling of remorse and personal responsibility for the sin, and recognition of the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party—confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.

Repentance 17:07

Christ teaching in the Parable of the Lost Son provides an understanding of the value of repentance in human relationship with God and his purpose regarding repentance in human interactions and relationships. He explains in the parable that God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.

Also, he uses the parable to explain sin as wrongdoing that a person commits against at least one other—the injured party. In that case, repentance requires three actions in order: (1) recognition and remorse, whereby you recognize that you have sinned, feel remorse and accept personal responsibility for the sin, and recognize the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party, whereby you confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. As we discuss in a previous study under Responding to Sin, Christ explains that the injured party must accept the repentance and forgive the repentant person.

We discuss our understanding of the parable first and conclude the study with a discussion of the parable itself based on the gospel according to Luke [15:11–21].

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Responding to Sin

Living in the Image of God M03S12

To respond to a sin by an associate, provide them an opportunity to repent, even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. If they repent, accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, separate from them to protect yourself from sin.

Responding to Sin 11:25

We discuss Christ teaching to explain the individual responsibility regarding another person (an associate) that has committed sin. He teaches that you should provide the associate with an opportunity to repent. You should do this even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Also, you need to provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. Christ describes several steps for escalating your effort by involving an increasing number of people. If the person repents, you should accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, then you should separate yourself from them.

The essence of the message is that a sin by an associate threatens your continued association with them, because you need to separate yourself from any person, thing, or event that may cause you to sin (see previous discussion under Individual Responsibility Regarding Sin). First, you should seek to help the associate to remove the sin. You should do so with diligence and persistence. If the associate repents, then accept. However, if the associate refuses to repent, then separate from him or her to protect yourself from sin.

We discuss specific steps based on Christ teaching for seeking to convince the associate to repent.

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Individual Responsibility Regarding Sin

Living in the Image of God M03S11

Christ teaches two elements of the individual responsibility regarding sin. First, do not instigate others to turn away from God. Those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. Because forgiveness requires repentance of all along the chain, repentance by an instigator alone could be insufficient. Therefore, the punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable. Second, do not commit sin, even if instigated by another. Separate yourself from people, things, or events that may cause you to sin. However, in contrast to sin committed by instigating others, repentance from a sin committed by self guarantees forgiveness.

Individual Responsibility Regarding Sin 13:03

We discuss Christ teaching to understand that the individual responsibility regarding sin has two elements. First, you should separate yourself from whoever or whatever that may cause you to sin. If these are people, separate yourself from them; if things, separate yourself from the things; if events, keep yourself far away from the events. You are individually responsible for any sin you commit, even if the sin is instigated by others. [Matthew 18:8–9]: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

Second, you should not instigate others to sin. Instigating another person to sin means doing something that causes a person that believes in God to turn away from God. Turning away from God means turning to sin [Matthew 18:6–7]: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”

The punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable, because those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. In that case, forgiveness would require repentance of all along the chain. Therefore, whereas repentance from sin committed by self means a turn to God and guarantees forgiveness, repentance from instigating another to sin could be insufficient for forgiveness because of the other lost souls along the potential chains of instigated sinners.

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Christ Teaches Humility

Living in the Image of God M03S10

Humility is the quality of expecting others to be greater or better than you in one or more considerations, based on understanding that every person is potentially God’s representative in human interactions with you. Humility manifests as an invitation with promise—promise of care and diligence regarding the needs of others; promise of appreciation for others and any goods or service they provide; and promise of obedience to the authority of others—conveyed to them more by attitude than spoken or written words.

Christ Teaches Humility 13:37

We discuss three instances of Christ teaching regarding humility: to understand the meaning and importance of humility in human interactions. First, we discuss Christ teaching among dinner guests, where he explained a defining principle of humility: humble yourself that you may be exalted and honored by others; or the opposite, exalt yourself and you likely will be humbled and humiliated by others. Through his interactions with the dinner guests, Christ defines humility as the quality of expecting others to be greater or better than you in one or more considerations.

Second, we discuss the humility of a child based on Christ teaching. We see that a child personifies humility according to the defining principle, because of the intrinsic characteristic of childhood to expect others to be greater or better. Therefore, Christ introduces the humility of childhood as defining a standard that God expects of every person.

Third, we discuss an example based on the humility of David to understand that humility entails respect and submission to lawful authority. He was anointed to be king but recognized the authority of the people to select him as their king. Therefore, he waited patiently in humility for seven years after the death of his predecessor, until the people of Israel made him king.

Finally, we discuss Christ teaching on humility in the Sermon on the Mount, where he described the promise of blessing for humility toward God and humility in human interactions.

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Submission to Lawful Authority—Choose Battles to Avoid

Living in the Image of God M03S09

Christ teaching illustrates submission to lawful authority despite possible grounds for objection. To understand, we discuss examples from the bible to illustrate choosing battles to avoid to focus effort better. In one example, Jesus chose to pay the temple tax despite recognizing grounds for objection based on unfair implementation of the tax law. In another, Paul recommended circumcision of Timothy despite an existing church ruling that the circumcision was not necessary. In a third, David postponed punishment of two subordinates for offenses they committed during his reign but proclaimed a severe sentence against them as he passed their cases to his successor Solomon. He chose to avoid potential problems of punishing them at the time of their offense to focus instead on his overall mission.

Submission to Lawful Authority—Choose Battles to Avoid 10:26

We conclude the bible study series on submission to lawful authority, whereby we seek understanding of Christ interactions regarding the temple tax. We recall that he chose to pay the tax despite recognizing possible grounds for objection. In the first two sessions, we discussed the basis for submission to authority (Christ Teaches Submission to Lawful Authority) and the requirement for conforming to due process in the event of an objection (Submission to Lawful Authority—Due Process for Objections). The current session focuses on understanding that an objection could be better not raised even if justified. We discuss examples from the bible to illustrate choosing battles to avoid in order to focus effort better.

The decision on whether to avoid or fight a battle could be made by categorizing potential battles based on how they might affect the overall mission. Avoid a battle if the objective of the overall mission can be accomplished without fighting the battle and the message of the mission would not be diluted by avoiding the battle. In contrast, fight a battle if the battle is necessary to accomplish the objective of the overall mission.

Christ interactions regarding the temple-tax law provide an example based on his choosing to pay the tax despite recognizing potential grounds for an objection regarding the implementation of the law [Matthew 17:27]: “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” He chose to pay the tax “so that we may not cause offense.” By paying the tax, he avoided potential problems that could arise with raising an objection against the tax law. There could be future opportunities to address the fairness of the tax collection.

The bible provides several other examples of choosing to avoid a battle in order to conserve effort. In one example, Paul recommended that Timothy be circumcised to join the team for the 2nd Missionary Journey, despite an existing ruling of the Jerusalem church that such circumcision was not necessary. He chose to circumcise Timothy to avoid potential controversy regarding his circumcision.

In another example, David postponed punishment of Shimei and Joab for offenses they committed during his reign. However, he later proclaimed a severe sentence against each of them during his handover to Solomon. He did not punish them at the time of their offense to avoid potential problems that could have arisen from punishing them. He chose to avoid the battles to focus effort on his overall mission.

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Submission to Lawful Authority—Due Process for Objections

Living in the Image of God M03S08

Discussion of Christ teaching regarding the temple tax continues with interactions among Saul, Jonathan, and people of Israel; to understand that an objection against lawful authority must conform to due process. The interactions provide two examples of an objection against an order of the king. One did not conform to due process and led to prosecution of the objector. The other, an objection by collective decision of the people, resulted in overruling the king and illustrates due process by collective decision. In modern-day societies, a collective decision could be channeled through the legislature, judiciary, specially authorized persons, referendum or ballot initiative, or public protest.

Submission to Lawful Authority—Due Process for Objections 10:32

This study is the second of a three-part series on submission to lawful authority: based on
Christ teaching regarding the temple tax. As we discuss in the first part, he chose to pay the tax despite recognizing possible grounds for objection. Our discussion in this study focuses on understanding that an objection must conform to due process in obedience to lawful authority. We discuss examples from interactions among King Saul, his son and second-in-command Jonathan, and the people of Israel. The interactions occurred during a military campaign.

The interactions provide two examples of an objection against an order of the king. One example did not conform to due process and led to prosecution of the objector. In contrast, the other example shows that an objection by a collective decision of the people resulted in overruling the king and, thus, illustrates that a collective decision of the people conforms to due process.

Also, we identify several forms of collective decision of the people in a modern-day society: such as a decision of the legislature, judiciary (or court system), specially authorized persons such as tax collectors, referendum or ballot initiative, or public protest.

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Christ Teaches Submission to Lawful Authority

Living in the Image of God M03S07

Christ interactions regarding the temple tax convey a message of submission to lawful authority as an aspect of human relationship with God. He chose to pay the tax despite potential grounds for objection. Submission to authority is God’s mandate conveyed through Prophet Samuel’s interactions with the people of Israel, when God delegated to government the responsibility to reign over the people and authority to execute the responsibility. Paul summarized the relationship in his letter to Romans—Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Christ Teaches Submission to Lawful Authority 10:50

This bible study begins a three-part series on understanding human interactions with lawful authority. We discuss Christ interactions regarding the temple tax to understand the basis for submission to lawful authority and assessing potential grounds for objection. We see that he chose to pay the tax despite recognizing potential grounds for objection. We begin the series with a discussion of the basis for submission to lawful authority.

We see that submission to lawful authority is rooted in God’s mandate conveyed through interactions between Prophet Samuel and the people of Israel, when God approved a government based on kingship for Israel. He delegated to government the responsibility to reign over the people and authority to execute the responsibility: “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights” [1 Samuel 8:9].

As we discuss in a previous bible study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King, the responsibility and authority that God delegated to government based on the interactions include the authority to collect taxes and other revenue, raise military and security forces, own landed property, and represent the nation among other nations.

To understand the basis for submission to authority, we discuss Christ interactions regarding the temple tax and the interactions between Samuel and the people of Israel regarding their demand for a government led by king. The second session in the series will discuss respect for due process in any event of raising objections against lawful authority. The third session will discuss submission to authority despite grounds for objection: to emphasize the principle of choosing battles to avoid in order to direct effort to more fruitful objectives.

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Human Interactions with God in Call to Compassion

Living in the Image of God M03S06

A call to compassion presents an opportunity for the recipient to function as channel for God’s compassion to the needy. The call could be received through sensitivity to the needs of others or by direct instruction from God. The recipient is called to recognize the need, care about the needy, and seek God to determine a path toward alleviating the need. God may intervene with miracle, often through human effort of the call recipient, to provide goods or service through the recipient to alleviate the need. We discuss examples from two occasions of Jesus and his disciples feeding a crowd of thousands in a remote place.

Human Interactions with God in Call to Compassion 13:47

Examples from the bible show that a call to compassion presents an opportunity for the call recipient to function as channel for God’s compassion. He can communicate the call to the recipient in several ways. We discuss one example where the recipient recognized the need through sensitivity to the needs of others and a second example where the recipient recognized the need by direct instruction from God.

Both examples illustrate that God calls the recipient to recognize the need, care about the needy, and work (while consulting with God) to determine a path toward alleviating the need. He may intervene with a miracle, often through human effort of the call recipient, to provide for the needy through the call recipient as a human intermediary.

The examples come from two occasions when Jesus and his disciples fed a crowd of thousands in a remote place (Mark 6:32–44 and 8:1–10). They illustrate receiving call to compassion, consulting with God to determine a path forward, and God intervening with a miracle to provide for the needy through the call recipient.

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Priority of Compassion

Living in the Image of God M03S05

There should be no law, custom, or regulation against providing goods or service to alleviate the need in a call to compassion. Whereas the procurement of goods or service could be subject to laws, customs, and regulations; there should be no hindrance by any authority against providing procured goods or service in an act of compassion, such as humanitarian assistance to refugees. We draw parallels from Christ response to Pharisee challenge regarding compassion on the Sabbath.

Priority of Compassion 13:09

We discuss Christ response to two challenges by the Pharisees regarding compassion on the Sabbath: to understand that there should be no law, custom, or regulation against providing goods or service to alleviate the need of others. Although the procurement of goods or service in a call to compassion could in general be subject to laws, customs, and regulations; providing the procured goods or service to alleviate the need, such as in humanitarian assistance to refugees, should not be hindered by any law, custom, or regulation.

We draw parallels based on Christ response to challenges by the Pharisees regarding acts of compassion on the Sabbath. One challenge was about the disciples picking and eating grains from a grainfield on the Sabbath. The other challenge was about Christ healing a man with shriveled hand on the Sabbath.

Jesus responded to the first challenge by referring the Pharisees to an interaction between David and the priest of Nob (1 Samuel 21:3–6), whereby the priest provided leftover consecrated bread to David and his men. He authorized them to eat the bread, having determined that he could give the bread to them without violating the religious custom regarding consumption of such bread. Similarly, Jesus, as the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27–28), authorized his disciples to pick and eat grains as they passed through a grainfield on the Sabbath, knowing that their action does not violate the spirit of the Sabbath law. The law calls for the seventh day of the week to be reserved as a day of rest so that the people and beasts of burden that provide household labor could rest and be refreshed for the next days of work (Exodus 23:12). Therefore, because the disciples were not at work in the grainfield but only picked grains as they passed through, they did not violate the spirit of the law.

He responded to the second challenge by explaining that an act of compassion, such as healing, has higher priority than observing the Sabbath; thus, does not violate the Sabbath law.

We discuss the challenges and Christ response. Additionally, we discuss the Sabbath law and David’s interaction with the priest of Nob, to understand the challenges and response.

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