This is a continuation of Monday’s post on forgiveness. If you have not read that, you might want to first.
So, what did Christ show us by “Forgive them for they know not what they do”?
I think He’s telling us that people often don’t consider the ramifications and consequences of what they say or do to others. Most of us walk around in reaction mode with no bridal on our tongue. We’re all guilty of it. Who hasn’t said something in anger that they really didn’t mean, and wished they could take it back? Unfortunately, once something is said, you can apologize, but you can never take it back.
Sometimes we may even feel justified in our actions that hurt someone. Of course, the Pharisees felt justified, so I don’t think that’s a very good argument for intentionally offending someone.
Most of the time when we hurt others, or they hurt us, it’s really not done with the intent of hurting each other. Sometimes it just happens even though we have the best of intentions. We might be trying to communicate something that just gets lost in translation, and we end up with a lot of hurt feelings.
Let me give you another example of the ultimate in forgiveness. This is while Steven was preaching a very powerful message to the crowd.
Acts 7:54-60 54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
A perfect example of people in the reaction mode!
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
I pray that I would have that kind of character and forgiveness, if ever in a situation like that.
Forgiving someone for hurting our feelings or treating us unjustly can sometimes be very difficult. I know this because I have been on both sides of offences; both the giver of, and the recipient of, many times.
As Christians, we have a moral obligation to forgive others, especially our brethren, and there are many scriptures that really drive that point home as well.
Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
When Christ was showing His disciples how to pray, He was very clear about forgiveness.
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Here’s a frightening thought for you. Can you imagine spending your life striving to overcome, doing all the things you feel you should do as a Christian, but all the time you haven’t been able to let go of some hurt or injustice – how are you going to explain that to God?
How can we expect to be forgiven for all the things we’ve done, when we couldn’t bring ourselves to forgive someone whose sins against us are far less than the sins we have committed against God over a life time.
You, know, there are people who spend their whole lives holding grudges; against family, against friends, even against their spouses.
I personally believe that many unhappy marriages are due to a lack of forgiveness. Certain things we do offend the other and they can never seem to let it go. It builds, and builds ,and builds until the anger and lack of forgiveness has totally suffocated out the love they once held for each other.
Matthew 18:21-35 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet[a] and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’[b] 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Ultimately, when we harbor ill will toward someone it is us who suffers the most. Resentment and anger are like a cancer that will eventually consume the one who is feeling and holding on to them.
We have to let it go.
Again in Luke 6:37 we read: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Sometimes forgiveness is hard, especially when we’re hurt deep by someone we care for. But, as I pointed out earlier, none of us has been hurt to the degree that Jesus was. That may not make your hurt feel any less painful at the time, but know you’re in good company when you look past the hurt and forgive the one who hurt you.
May God help us all to be more forgiving!