‘And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins'.
How many of us have ever been given a ‘second chance’? The world teaches that if you make a mistake then it’s your fault and that you are not entitled to a second chance. This we know is contrary to the principles of the kingdom of God – the principle of ‘forgiveness’. In the Word we are constantly reminded to forgive others so that we can then expect to receive forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. If we cannot forgive then how can we expect God to forgive us of all our sins? Jesus constantly taught about the principles of forgiveness and he showed us the best example of forgiveness during His last days on earth. Jesus experienced extreme betrayal when His disciples abandoned Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Jews put Him up for death in place of the serial killer Barabbas, He was ‘sold’ by Judas and one of His best friend’s – Peter denied knowing Him when questioned ! Wow! Can any of us say they we have experienced such betrayal by friends and love ones? Despite this Jesus practiced what He preached - forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be said to be in two stages. Firstly, the ‘proclamation of forgiveness’. When on the cross, one of Jesus’ last words were “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Interestingly Jesus acknowledged that the people who had put Him to death did not know what they were doing. Most of the time when people hurt us or offend us it is usually a ‘mistake’ – people make mistakes when they are ‘mis’ informed and they ‘take’ inappropriate action which can result in hurting the receiver. Mistakes are not intentional and I believe that people do not intentionally seek to hurt however there are people who take pleasure in this - however there are deeper psychological issues at play here. This was the case with the crucifixion. The Jews did not have the revelation that Jesus was the ‘Son of God’ and in fact the ‘King of the Jews’ – they mistook the truth for blasphemy and disrespect for God. If only they knew! However the crucifixion of Christ was the chief part of God’s master plan for this world and if they had known then the prophecy would not have been fulfilled and our sins would not have been forgiven! In His last moments Jesus openly proclaimed that He had forgiven His oppressors because He knew that they did not know what they were doing!
Secondly, the act of forgiveness. It is very easy to say that you have forgiven someone but then if you still avoid them and refuse to talk to them then you haven’t actually ‘acted out’ your forgiveness. Words are easy, but actions are hard! When someone hurts us what we tend to do is to harbour the resentment and the bitterness. The longer we do this the greater the bitterness becomes and the harder our hearts become and then it gets more difficult to forgive the person. God struggles to work with hard hearts- he requires soft malleable hearts – hearts that the Holy Spirit can minister too. The enemy knows this all too well and so when we are hurt he will constantly whisper to you and exaggerate and intensify what could have been a very small issue. Refuse to listen to him – the devil is a liar! The quicker we forgive the easier the process will be for us. Prolonging the process of forgiveness gives the enemy more time and space to intensify the situation and to cause our hearts to harden. You need to ‘release’ that person – that person will still carry on with their life but if you and I do not forgive we will spend our life holding onto that person and they will become a weight on our heart – a burden! Who then is in a better position? We need to ask God for the grace to forgive because forgiveness is one of the most difficult things for us Christians to do - How ironic!
Jesus put forgiveness in action when he rose from the dead. He immediately forgave Peter even though he had denied knowing him on three occasions as well as his disciples who had abandoned him when he needed their backing the most. Imagine you where on your way home with a group of friends and you were mugged and beaten by a gang and all your friends ran and left you to defend yourself! This is just a taste of what it must have felt like for Jesus however he still forgave them instantly! When he was raised from the dead the first people he wanted to see were these friends who had betrayed him. It is like you being discharged from hospital after being beaten up by the gang and then going straight to visit the friends who had abandoned you! The message that came from the angel of the Lord at the tomb was “Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you in Galilee” (Mark 16:7). Do you notice he said ‘the disciples and Peter’? Before Jesus had been crucified he had prophesised that he would go ahead of them to Galilee and despite the betrayal he still included his friends in his plans! Jesus didn’t say ‘oh well you messed up I’ve risen now so I wont include you in my plans! No! He was quick to forgive and put his forgiveness into action. Even Peter who betrayed him to the greatest extent – he specifically made a point to include him in his plans. Just like Jesus we should be quick to forgive – proclaim forgiveness ‘I forgive you’ and then put this forgiveness into action. Show that you have forgiven that person by treating them as if they have not hurt you. Today ask God will for the grace to forgive because his grace is sufficient for us. Forgiveness can not be carried out with human strength but only by the grace of God. I want you to join me in making it our prayer today to say ‘Dear Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross for me to save my sins, thank you for your forgiveness. Lord give me the grace to forgive those who have hurt me, in Jesus name, Amen!
2011 Rianne Sintim. All rights reserved.