Aug 01, 2022

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus holds forgiveness for others’ sins as a high standard for us: if we forgive others, we are forgiven; if we don’t, we are not forgiven our sins (Matthew 6:14-15). Our natural tendency is to condemn others for what they do wrong and not to recognize our own sins. When we don’t acknowledge our own sins, we most often project those sins onto others who we’re afraid of or who we don’t care for. Just look at how we have treated the slaves in our country. We certainly treated them sinfully for centuries, and have never accepted their descendants as full citizens. My interpretation of our actions is this: we project our sinfulness which we have refused to atone for onto the Black descendants of the slaves; we are afraid of how they might retaliate against their treatment in this country. Instead, all they desire is a rightful place as citizens of this country into which they were born. You may disagree with my interpretation, but the truth is that we don’t now and have never treated them as equals.


In my own life I have come to understand that a lot of the sinfulness I find in others is often my own projection onto others, even family members, who probably aren’t acting from what harm I project. I live now in an apartment attached to my daughter’s and son-in-law’s house with their three children(two are now in college). I moved in here three years ago, and it’s been a great lesson to me in not assuming criticism and judgment from them. My natural reaction is self-protective, but I honestly know now that I am projecting onto them my own fears about how I am accepted in this world. And that has nothing to do with what is true about me or them. So I am forgiving them when the thoughts come up in my mind that, of course, they are unhappy with me, criticizing me.


It’s my choice, our choice, to be defensive or not with little evidence except our own expectations. So I forgive. And I find that I am not as defensive either with other people now. The first time I came across this need to forgive was in my marriage. A good fifteen+ years into our marriage, I began to realize that when I thought Hank was criticizing me(the source of many of our arguments), he was mainly just expressing who he was, not criticizing me. I was the source of my defensiveness and of many of our arguments. And he felt the same about me “criticizing” him. As this began to sink into me and then into him, we had fewer and fewer arguments. We were forgiven and forgiving!


“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)


Reconcile with your brother or sister before you offer a gift at the altar. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the foundations of the community of human beings in the kingdom of God. All human beings are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Probably the first thing we have to realize in ourselves is that God loves and forgives each of us equally which we can come to understand as we turn back to Him. And that is our job, too. If we hold judgment or fear or anger or envy against anyone, if we mistreat anyone, we are preventing God from doing His work in us and in the world. Reconciliation means that we value the other person as a child of God, made in His image. It means that we want to get to know them, to understand their stories/challenges, to treat them as just like us—warts and all. For we human beings were not made so that we would perfectly follow what God’s purpose is for us in our lives. We have to choose to love and follow God, and accept our imperfections, on a daily basis.


If we want to live in the kingdom of God here on Earth, then we have to be loving and forgiving towards every human being. It means that we white people of European heritage are not the pinnacle of the human race; we are just one of its members. And that we need to treat anyone who is seemingly different from us, be they Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American, or Jews, with love, compassion, and forgiveness. What I see so clearly today is that by treating all these people differently, we are denying the very mixture of cultures and nations of origin that define the “melting pot” of our country.  We are missing out on the contributions of each of these groups because we don’t really accept them as equal under the law and in our society. If we read authors from these groups, we begin to realize how important their perspective is to the continuing democracy of our country.


Always, we are asked to forgive and to accept who the other is with love. Because that is the only strategy that works against such prejudice and anger. If we choose to fight against other people, they only grow more defensive. If we love and forgive them, they will respond in a whole new way.


Questions to ponder over the week: Do I forgive other people for their faults? Do I forgive myself for my faults and sins? Can I accept that God forgives me and them? Or do I judge myself and others, too?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are loving and forgiving of every human being. May we spread God’s love and forgiveness everywhere we go.


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Two Announcements

  1. I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at and I will send it to you, free of charge.


  1. My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.





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