Christianity 201

September 23, 2018

A Worship Liturgy and Word Study: Sin, Forgive

by Ruth Wilkinson

Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said,
“Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins…”
Matthew 26:27‭-‬28 HCSB

There are a number of words in the Bible that are translated to our English word “sin.”

Different words that paint different pictures of different behaviours, but that all have one thing in common — they describe things in our lives that come between us and the God who loves us.

Things like:

  • Missing the target (hamartano) – because sometimes we really do try our best, and still fail;
  • Wandering, going off the path (planay) – because sometimes we stop paying attention, and suddenly realize we’ve gone off course;
  • Defiance, Rebellion (parabaino) – because sometimes we just choose say no to God. Or to say yes to something that is not for our best.

As we take some time to pray through this prayer for forgiveness either out loud or silently,
listen for His still, small voice and what He might want you to see in yourself.

Then take a moment of silence and talk to Him about it.

Lord, forgive me.
For the things I’ve done impulsively, without thinking.
For the things I’ve done gradually, over time.
For the places I’ve gone that I had no business going.
Forgive me, Lord.

For the things I’ve held tightly that I should have dropped or given away,
For the things I’ve given away that I should have held sacred.
For the things I’ve let go that I should have fought to keep.
Forgive me, Lord.

For the things I’ve said or typed, the links I shouldn’t have clicked.
For the times I’ve kept silent or stood off to the side when I should have spoken up.
Forgive me, Lord.

For the ways I’ve used or put down other people, or held myself more highly than I ought.
For the things I’ve taken that were not mine to take.
Forgive me.
Forgive me.
Forgive me, Lord.

This leads to our second word…

There are a number of words in the Bible that are translated to our English word “forgive.”

Different words that paint different word pictures of how God responds when we ask what we have just asked.

Pictures like:

  • Drop, send away (aphiemi) – because He promises to send our sin to the bottom of the ocean, to the depths of the wilderness, never to be even remembered;
  • Cover, make peace (kaphar) – because He reaches his hand to shelter us from the justice we’ve earned and to reconcile us to himself;
  • Pick up and carry (nasa) – because he takes our burden, pays our debt and sets us free.

And says… “You are forgiven. Let’s start fresh.”

December 20, 2011

Know Any Revilers?

Usually the search for material to include here runs anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. This time around, I was a full hour looking for something that would satisfy my “depth meter” and I was finally rewarded with the discovery of a blogger who is more Christianity 301 than 201.  Scott Nassau lives in Los Angeles and specializes in Hebrew/Jewish studies.  He doesn’t blog often — this is his third most recent piece and it appeared in February — but the posts are worth waiting for, I guess.  This one was originally titled Why ‘Reviler’ is an Important Word.

I was recently prompted by my friend Joseph Barkley to look up the word reviler when he referenced the word in passing during his challenging sermon. While I like to think of myself as erudite, I was perplexed by my inability to provide a precise definition for the word. In the last few months I spent many hours studying for the GRE and have enjoyed the influx of new words I have added to my repertoire. Reviler was not one of those words. So I looked it up, and discovered that it refers to a person who criticizes with abusive language or in an insulting manner. If this were the extent of my research then this would not provide a very entertaining account.

In English Bibles, this word appears infrequently. The only two instances occur within Paul’s list of various vices (1 Cor 5:11; 6:10). The lists do not provide much context for understanding the meaning of the word; they simply indicate that a reviler does not accurately reflect God’s character and will not inherit God’s Kingdom. In these lists, Paul employs the Greek word loidoros, which simply refers to a verbally abusive person. The word also appears a few times in the Greek translation (LXX) of the Hebrew Bible, all of which refer to a quarrelsome or contentious person (Prov 25:24; 26:21; 27:15; Sirach 23:8). The original Hebrew word madon, the basis for the Greek translation loidoros, refers to strife, quarreling or scolding. The Proverbs teach that a quick-tempered person provokes strife, but the one who is slow to anger calms a quarrel (Prov 15:18; if so inclined, a quick glance at a few of these Proverbs will lead to some very entertaining reading, Prov 16:28; 17:14; 18:19; 21:19; 22:10; 23:29; 25:24; 26:20-21; 27:15; 28:25; 29:22).

By this point I have certainly bored every reader with this overly technical detail for a seemingly insignificant word. Yet the two related Greek words in the New Testament may help elucidate this issue further. First, the noun loidoria refers to speech that is highly insulting or abusive (1 Tim 5:14; 1 Pet 3:9). Peter tells the community of faith not to return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others (1 Pet 3:9). The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible uses this word to depict God’s anger with Israel when they complained and grumbled while in the desert (Ex 17:7; Num 20:24). Proverbs describes the person who spreads insults as a fool (Prov 10:18). Second, the verb loidoreo refers to the act of verbally disparaging a person (John 9:28; Acts 23:4; 1 Cor 4:12; 1 Pet 2:23). In the Septuagint, the verb continues to describe contentious or vituperative abuse, but can extend to an altercation, resulting in physical harm (Ex 21:18; see also Gen 49:23; Ex 17:2; Num 20:3, 13; Deut 33:8; 2 Mac. 12:14).

The underlying Hebrew word riv, behind the nominal and verbal Greek words, has a wide range of meaning, including both legal and nonlegal quarrels. The basic meaning of the verb relates to striving. In non-legal applications, the verb can describe either a physical brawl (Gen 26:20-22; Ex 21:18; Judg 11:25) or a verbal quarrel (Gen 31:36; Ex 17:2; Num 20:3). In legal situations, the verb describes the process of bringing a lawsuit against another party (Ex 23:2; Is 3:13; Jer 2:29; Mic 7:9). The nominal form of the word can also describe both non-legal disputes (Gen 13:7; Is 58:4) and legal litigation (Ex 23:3-6).

So why spend so much time discussing the tedious background to a word typically overlooked in modern vernacular? The reason? Obviously, Paul thought it a serious enough offense to mention it along with other vices; therefore, it is an important subject for those who seek to exemplify godly character. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding of this word has caused God’s people to either overlook vituperative speech or, even worse, passively accept such behavior as appropriate.

Sometimes the religious community can be the biggest perpetrators of reviling speech. Some Christian leaders (I will not mention any by name) are notorious for singling out certain sins and verbally assaulting those who struggle with said vices; yet, those who condemn others in an abusive manner are equally guilty of offending God’s righteous standard. At this point, some may take issue with me, thinking that I am advocating an amoral approach. This is entirely not true. When looking at God’s standard for holiness, we cannot simply choose to focus on certain sins that offend us and then decide to ignore the others. We are all broken, which means that we do not have the right to verbally assault others merely because we think their behavior is more offensive to God than our own. One of the reasons Paul includes revilers in his vice list is because it misrepresents God as an emotional demagogue.

A reviler is not only a person who verbally assaults others, but it also includes those with a contentious attitude. God expresses his anger with Israel for their cantankerousness when they grumble against him in the desert, because it illustrated their ingratitude (Ex 17:7; Num 20:24). Incessant complaining dishonors God, because it indicates that we are not thankful for the innumerable blessings God has provided for us. A quarrelsome attitude is equivalent to bringing a lawsuit against God, accusing him of wronging us with some great injustice.

Why is reviler such an important word? It is significant, because it deeply offends God. I know that it is very easy to justify our discontent or overlook our verbal assaults on others, but, if we are serious about reflecting God’s holiness, we cannot treat this behavior as acceptable. On our refrigerator we have a magnet challenging us to remove Lashon Hara, the Evil Tongue, from our midst. In regards to reviling, I think that magnet is appropriate. We can emulate God’s character not only by our actions, but also through our speech.

~Scott Nassau