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The Fifth Step to Heaven on Earth: Forbearance (Video)

A friend told me that his uncle refused to believe in God because he was a businessman. He said, “As a businessman, I lie all the time to negotiate business deals. I am not worthy of being a Christian.” Though it sounds funny and honest, it reflects many people’s sentiment about God, which they want to stay away from, consciously or unconsciously, fearing exposing their skeletons in the closet.

Business is warfare. To be an entrepreneur, you must learn the Art of War. Sunzi’s Art of War says that all warfare is based on “deception.” For example, when you are weak, you must pretend to be strong so that the enemy might think you are strong and surrender without a fight. When you are strong, you must pretend to be weak so that your enemy will be underprepared, so you can easily win.

Without deception, warfare will be like a dog fight. Even if you win, you will suffer casualties. So, deception is a lesser evil in warfare to reduce collateral damage. Today, I have heard most MBA students around the world have to study Sunzi’s Art of War because business is warfare—a game of deception.

Every deception erodes our integrity and puts weight on our conscience, consciously or unconsciously. As a result, some people prefer to stay away from the holy ground, consciously or unconsciously. Simon Peter was a businessman, and when he discovered Jesus’ divinity, he asked him to go away.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).

We know Peter was always authentic. He never hid his feelings from the moment he appeared in the Bible to the time he was crucified upsidedown. Would it be nice if there was no God? Then we can do what we want and don’t have to worry about exposing our skeletons in the closet.

We all want to live with a clean conscience and deal with everyone with integrity. We all want to do what is right, but we suffer guilt and shame when we miss the mark. Entrepreneurs are warriors who shoot more, so they miss more and suffer more.

Last week, we talked about hunger and thirst for righteousness as our Fourth Step to Heaven on Earth. The problem is, the more we discover what is right, the more we dislike what is wrong, and the more we feel uncomfortable with deceptions.

There are only two choices—perfection or purgation. We all know perfection is not possible, so we must practice purgation, which means purging the sins. That’s the only way to keep our conscience clear and maintain integrity.

That doesn’t mean we give up on perfection, but we must pursue both: perfection and purgation. That means we must always aim our arrow at the bullseye and have a contingency plan for missing the mark.

In this fallen world, you will miss the mark for sure. The Bible says we are all sinners. According to the Hebrew word for sin, it means we are all bad archers. So, why don’t we just have a contingent plan once for all instead of escaping it?

Zhuangzi, the great philosopher, said that an archer who does not have to worry about missing the mark is more likely to hit the bullseye. If you have a contingent plan, you worry less and are more likely to hit the bullseye.

Maybe we should be like Charlie Brown aiming his arrow at a plain wall. Lucy asked curiously, “Charlie, what are you shooting at? Where is the bullseye?” Charlie said, “There is the bullseye.” He shot the arrow, walked over to where it landed and drew a bullseye around it. In fact, the Bible says,

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Ro 8:28).

In plain language, it means if you love God, God will draw a bullseye around your arrow. The question is how to love God so that we have this advantage. In life, we must make a lot of decisions blindly. Sometimes, we just have to decide based on our best knowledge and pray that God has mercy on us and draws a bullseye around it.

So, today, let’s discuss the Fifth Steps to Heaven on Earth: Forbearance, based on the fifth blessing in the Beatitudes. In this blessing, Jesus revealed the secret to living a life of clean conscience. Especially, if you are an entrepreneur—a warrior in the game of deception, you must obtain this blessing to maintain your integrity, a clean conscience, and sanity.

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper! You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

Today, we will focus on the fifth blessing in the Beatitudes. It’s from the Gospel According to Matthew 5:7. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Mt 5:7).

[This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]

This verse is like quantum physics. It makes you wonder which comes first. We have been told that we are forgiven by God first, and we pay it forward to forgive others. But, this verse seems to say that our mercy comes first, and then we receive mercy.

Anyone who believes that we are saved by God’s grace, which is true, must pay serious attention to this verse. In fact, Jesus taught this subject repeatedly. Even in the Lord’s Prayer, he taught, “Forgive us our sin, as we forgive those who sin against us.” “As we forgive” means our forgiveness is followed by God’s forgiveness.

Jesus famously told the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. This story is quite serious because it makes you rethink taking grace for granted. It begins like this,

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him;” (Mt 18:23–24)

A talent is equivalent to fifteen years of wages. It’s equal to about a million dollars in our time and space. “Ten thousand talents” means ten billion dollars. Can you imagine how much this guy owed the king? Don’t be surprised; it’s nothing new.

CNBC reported a while back that “Government Employees Owe Billions in Delinquent Taxes.” Who knows what we will find out if the government settles the account like this king. The next verse says,

“and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.” (Mt 18:25).

Unfortunately, he couldn’t declare bankruptcy in those days. I don’t think you can do that in heaven either. Now, the king decided to liquidate his family and properties to make the payment.

So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. (Mt 18:26-27).

That is a big deal because he begged for an extension, but he got the total exemption. Maybe the king knew he would not be able to pay back in his lifetime. Erasing ten billion dollar debt shows the extent of his mercy. He should be kissing the king’s feet with tears like Mary Magdalene. But, the story doesn’t end there.

But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ (Mt 18:28).

A denarius is an average day’s wage. A hundred denarii might be about two thousand dollars for our time and space. He just received a ten-billion-dollar miracle, but instead of sharing his grace, he wanted his fellow slave to pay him back his two thousand dollars. It’s like a drop in the bucket compared to his forgiven debt.

Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. (Mt 18:29-30).

This man begged him just as he begged the king, but he threw him in prison. People saw the injustice and his lack of mercy.

When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. (Mt 18:31–34).

On the surface, this parable sounds like God has forgiven us first for a much bigger debt, so we must forgive others. What’s surprising in this story is that God’s forgiveness may be revoked based on how we behave. It sounds like conditional forgiveness, but it’s much more profound than that. Jesus concluded,

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Mt 18:35).

Putting it in the context of Jesus’ entire teaching, God’s forgiveness for you is incomplete until you pay it forward. That’s why it’s like quantum physics. In quantum physics, you shoot a ball from point A to point B, and then you check the arrival time and find that the arrival time is earlier than the departure.

It’s mysterious, but it doesn’t matter which comes first; Jesus has made it clear that we must forgive. Notice the last phrase, “forgive from your heart.” Sometimes we think forgiveness means reconciliation. No, forgiveness is from your heart. Reconciliation may take time until the wounds are healed.

One of the greatest artists and philosophers in human history, William Blake, said,

“In Heaven, the only Art of Living is Forgetting and Forgiving.” ~William Blake

If you want to live in heaven on earth, you need to learn this art of living—forgetting and forgiving.

Some psychologists would say you should forgive but not forget. I have discovered that we need both. We cannot move forward freely if we carry painful memories. It affects our health and well-being. God says,

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb 8:12).

In his mercy, God forgets our sins, not just forgives.

My father had an excellent memory, and he could remember the surprising details of his past. We often admire people with a good memory, but the downside of a good memory is recalling not just the pleasant past but also the painful pictures.

At a very young age, he had to escape the Japanese bombing of his hometown, running among the pools of blood and bodies. He had written a book about his life. All his friends who read his book were surprised at his vivid recollection of things they had long forgotten. However, we also see his perfect memories had affected his well-being.

Conversely, I don’t have a good memory. My problem is I forget everything, and sometimes, to my wife’s frustration.

Like William Blake, I wish I could learn the art of forgetting only the unpleasant memories and remembering the good ones. I have discovered that forgiving in your heart can turn unpleasant memories into good ones. You will discover “all things work together for the good of those who love God.”

You know the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. His brothers sold him as a slave to Egypt. After many hardships, he became the prime minister of Egypt. When he reunited with his brothers many years later. They worried that he might get revenge since he is so powerful now. He told them not to worry. He said,

“Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.” (Ge 50:20).

That’s a great example of how all things work together for the good of those who love God. It implies that he has forgiven them in his heart long ago, and believed God would turn his tragedy into good. God drew a bullseye where Joseph’s arrow had landed.

Jesus has made it clear that forgiveness is an act of loving God. Jesus’ Great Commandments also reveal that you cannot love God without loving people. Someone asked me, “How do I love people? I love my wife and family, but how do I love others that I don’t know or can’t relate to.” The answer is you forgive them.

Even though you cannot love a stranger, you can forgive them. Can’t you? I like the word “forbearance” because it’s a term covering forgiveness, tolerance, kindness, grace, mercy, patience, etc. It can be used on people you know and you don’t know. Jesus said,

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34).

Jesus said he had set an example for us. How did he love us? He forgives us by giving us his life on the cross. So, forgiving others is an act of loving them, as well as loving God. At least that’s the start. I have heard many people say they love everyone, but they hold back when it comes to forgiveness. That is hypocrisy. Without forgiveness, there is no love at all.

We live in a world where we are often told to get even. Otherwise, we appear weak. We fear people might treat us like a doormat if we keep forgiving. We want justice more than forgiveness. Simon Peter also felt there should be a limit to forgiveness. So, Peter asked Jesus,

“Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” (Mt 18:21).

The Hebrew tradition is to forgive three times. That’s where the “three strikes and you are out” concept came from. Knowing Jesus promotes forgiveness, Peter thought increasing it to seven times would be more than generous since it’s more than double. He thought Jesus would be proud of him for his magnanimous mercy. However, to his surprise and disappointment,

Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Mt 18:22).

The phrase “seventy-seven times” is a wordplay or pun which could also mean “seventy times seven.” If you understand the Hebrew humor, you will find Jesus to be a very funny teacher. In any case, Jesus was teasing Peter for his linear thinking. The point is, it’s not about the number that matters, but about love. If you have love, you don’t count how many times you forgive.

The good news is, when you forgive, God will draw a bullseye around your arrow. Life is full of uncertainty, and we are all poor archers aiming at a shifting target, but our arrows will always land on the bullseye if we express our love for God by forgiving people. All things work together for those who love God. Let us practice the discipline of forbearance and forgiveness and see God draw a bullseye around our arrow.

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.

Amen!

Bye now!