Health Benefits of Forgiveness

Forgiveness restores right relationships between individuals. In addition, forgiveness has health benefits for the person who forgives. This is shown in a book on The Power of Forgiveness by Kenneth Briggs (Fortress Press, 2008). He notes, “The most solid result is that forgiving yourself and others can be a bonanza for your heart and your blood vessels. Blood pressure goes down, therefore easing the workload on the cardio-pumper” ( p. 42).

Kathleen Lawler-Row, a professor of psychology, confirmed this finding in her studies. She reports: “The more forgiving people have lower blood pressure.  They are less aroused during stress. They recover from thinking about this [betrayal] experience more quickly.  When we look at survey samples and a variety of measures of health and fatigue, sleep, physical symptoms, number of medications, in every case the more forgiving the person the better the health” (Briggs, p. 46).

When we forgive, we are healed at the same time that we are a healer. Such is the benefit of living in God’s kingdom in this manner.

Many Expressions of Prayer

Prayers can have a variety of expressions. Many appear in the few short verses of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught (Matthew 6:9-13 RSV with some editing).

  • Personal relationship with God (“Our Father who art in heaven”)
  • Praise (“Hallowed be thy name”)
  • Concern for society (“Thy kingdom come”)
  • Obedience (“Thy will be done”)
  • Petition (“Give us this day our daily bread’)
  • Confession and request for forgiveness (for “our trespasses”)
  • Forgiveness of others (“who trespass against us”)
  • Guidance (“lead us not into temptation”)
  • Protection (“deliver us from evil”)
  • Acknowledgement of God’s supremacy (“the power and the glory forever”)

Elsewhere in the Bible we find other expressions (NRSV):

  • Lamentation (“Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord!” Psalm 130.1)
  • Thanksgiving (“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” Psalm 107.1)
  • Commitment (“Here am I, send me.” Isaiah 6:8)

Howard W. Hallman lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is author of Living in God’s Kingdom: Here and Now, available from Amazon.

Jesus Taught Love for Enemies

In the Sermon the Mount Jesus made a revolutionary pronouncement. Rather than hate your enemy, “love your enemies and pray for those who harass you” (Matthew 5:44).

Love for enemy for Jesus is grounded in the belief that all of us, friend and foe alike, are children of God who “makes his sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and unrighteous” (Mathew 5:45b). In Luke’s version Jesus says, “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). Therefore, we too should be kind and compassionate to everyone, even those we consider to be our enemies

Jesus further instructs, “Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (Matthew 5:43-48). This is the Common English Bible translation. Other versions translate this verse as “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible say that the Greek word used commonly means “finished, complete, pure, holy”. We recognize that God loves us. God loves others, too. When we also love others, including our enemies, we complete the circle. A kind of perfection. 

Love Requires Patience

In 1 Corintians 13:4 Paul wrote, “Love is patient.” Indeed patience is required in many circumstances.

Patience is a lifelong need in the romantic relationship of couples during dating, courtship, marriage or domestic partnership, staying together for decades, and especially in old age when one or both begin to lose mental and physical capability.

Patience is essential in rearing children. Parents offer love to their children at birth, and children respond with their own expressions of love. As children’s individualism develops, parents want to give them leeway but also set boundaries.  Early on a contest of wills develops. Offering discipline in a loving manner is required. The challenge grows as children enter adolescence and begin to strike out on their own.

Patience is necessary in many other situations: teachers with students, employers with employees and vice versa, within peer groups trying to get along, diners with waiters, sales clerks with customers, drivers with one another on a busy highway, phone callers on hold. The list goes on and on.  Even when annoyed you can show your patience as a way to love your neighbor.

Finally patience lays the groundwork for reconciliation and forgiveness.  As a proverb states: “Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife” (Proverbs 15:18).

 

Love Is Kindness

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul wrote that love is kind. Kindness can occur in many ways. Common courtesies within a family. Holding a door open for somebody. Thanking a waitress or store clerk for good service.  Running errands for the elderly couple next door. When arriving at the same time as another person at the salad bar or supermarket checkout, allowing the other person to go first. When driving an automobile, slowing down to let another vehicle merge in front of you. The list is endless.

Refugees and Immigrants in Scripture

The holy scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam contain many writings related to refugees and immigrants. They are worth considering in our day and age.

The Gospel of Matthew tells how Jesus began life as a refugee when his parents took him to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod (Matthew 2:13-15).

Abraham, spiritual forefather of the three major monotheistic religions, emigrated from Haran to Canaan. In a story told both in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Qur’an, one day three strangers appeared at Abraham’s tent. He offered them shelter, food, and drink. They turned out to be angels in disguise. They told Abraham that his wife Sarah, childless in old age, would bare a son (Genesis 18:1-15; Qur’an 4.36-37; 11:70-73).

Two of the strangers went next to Sodom to the home of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Lot took them in, fed them, and protected them from men of Sodom, who wanted to gang rape them. The angels warned Lot to flee Sodom before the Lord destroyed the city with fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:1-23; Qur’an 11.76-81).

The Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament summarizes this experience in a single verse: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

Although the Hebrew people generally prospered in Canaan, on occasion Abraham and Isaac had to temporarily relocate their families because of drought and famine (Genesis 12:10-20; 26:1-6). Jacob’s family followed Joseph to Egypt (Genesis 42:1-46:7) where they stayed for 430 years (Exodus 12:40).

Then Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt in a mass migration that took forty years to reach what they considered to be the Promised Land. Several times along the way Moses had to remind his people, “Don’t mistreat or oppress an immigrant, for you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). Also translated “sojourner”, “stranger”, “foreigner”, “resident alien”. He also instructed them, “Any immigrant who lives among you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens” (Leviticus 19:34).

Thereafter the Israelites were told to care for widows, orphans, the poor, and immigrants. For instance, allow them to glean for grain, to pick up fallen grapes and olives (Leviticus 19:9-10, Deuteronomy 24:20-21). The prophet Zechariah warned the people, “Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor” (Zechariah 7:10).

Jesus picked up this message in his Allegory of the Last Judgment. When the nations appear before the Son of Man for judgment, the place of honor goes to those who have served “the least of these”. They include those who have welcomed strangers along with those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, took care of the sick, and visited prisoners (Matthew 25: 31-46).

The Qur’an advises, “Be kind to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbor who is of kin, and to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveler” (Qur’an 4.36).

People in the United States, Europe, and other places that are receiving an inflow of refugees and immigrants should ponder and apply these religious teachings.

For more quotations see Biblical References to Immigrants and Refugees.

Howard W. Hallman lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is author of Living in God’s Kingdom: Here and Now, available from Amazon.

 

Holistic Perspective

When we consider living in God’s kingdom on earth, we need to take a holistic perspective. First, we need to consider that the Two Great Commandments are inextricably linked.You need a strong spiritual life based upon love for God to be able to love your neighbor, and Jesus’ addition, love your enemy. And you need to love other people to able to love God. “The person who doesn’t love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

Second, it is not enough to dedicate yourself to a life of prayer and worship without going out into society to show mercy and seek justice. But also it’s insufficient to engage in social action without have a strong spiritual foundation. In the Methodist tradition personal piety goes along with social holiness.

Third, if we want to obtain God’s forgiveness for our transgressions, we must first forgive others who have wronged us (Matthew 6:14-15).

A Blog Site for Discussion

This blog site is established to discuss matters presented on our website, Living in God’s Kingdom: Here and Now. Our posts will supplement ideas considered under the various topics with particular reference to practical application. We will also offer referrals to other sources of information. Your comments are invited.