Courage to Forgive

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that just crushed it.”- Mark Twain

Who among us has not suffered some kind of lose, hurt, betrayal or offense in our life? Who among us has not struggled to move on from these situations? How about when instead of you being the target of some mistreatment, it has been a very close loved one or your child or grandchild? Many times those are the hardest to stomach.  Have you ever struggled with forgiving them? I know I have! The absolute greatest example of forgiveness ever was the example Jesus Christ set for us. Let’s take a peek…

Isaiah 53:1-9 Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.
Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate?

For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people’s rebellion. They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

Jesus suffered greatly, was persecuted unjustly, betrayed by one of the twelve most intimate friends in His ministry and denied by others; whether by their fleeing or by outright denial of association. Further more, He was tortured along the route to the place He would be killed for crimes that were never committed. Still He never ceased to show compassion and forgiveness. Even as Jesus was drawing His last breaths, mercy was on His mind as He uttered the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” about those who had been integral in His arrest, trial, sentencing and soon to come death.  The offenses, betrayal and pain He suffered was heinous! Yet, Jesus forgave and asked God to forgive!

Some will say, but Jesus was God’s Son and He was fully God. I submit to you that He was also fully man with the same feelings, thoughts and emotions that we struggle with. His experience here was fully human while also being fully God, something we can not fully understand this side of His Kingdom. Yet He choose to forgive and petition for forgiveness not only for those who were responsible for His treatment but for us as well.

The Bible has many references to forgiveness, as best I have been able to find the most scripture with the word forgive are found in the New International Version. It mentions forgive 74 times, 42 in the Old Testament and 32 in the New.  Forgiveness can be difficult for us but it is the example that Jesus not only set for us but requires from us. He very specifically said that as we forgive so we will be forgiven. Conversely, as we hold onto offense and grudges, so will our offenses and sin be remembered. However, we are also promised He is wiling to forgive us and remember them no more if we repent, after all that was the reason He came.  To restore our relationship with God.  What better motivation to forgive those who we feel have wronged us?

Notice that He asked His Father to forgive them…why? We only have to look to scripture for the answer. Let’s consider Moses. In Exodus 16, it tells us that the Hebrew people grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They’d had it with wondering in the desert and were longing for the foods of Egypt forgetting their captivity and the conditions they had lived under. Moses petitioned God on their behalf. In verse 6 Moses addresses the people with the response; in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because He has heard your complaints about Him. For who are we that you complain about us? ” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and more than enough bread in the morning, for He has heard the complaints that you are raising against Him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭16‬:‭7-8‬ HCSB)  

Moses and Aaron were getting the flack, but the real sin was against God and God alone. This is also repeated similarly in Numbers 14. We can also find further evidence in Psalm 51 when David is writing about his sin with Bathsheba after Nathan the Prophet confronted him of his sin. In verse 4 David acknowledges that “against You and You alone have I sinned” as he speaks to God. Notice he did not mention sin against his soldier with whom he should have been with in battle; nor did he mention Bathsheba or her husband. He said it was God and God alone he had sinned against.  Perhaps we can draw a conclusion based of scriptural evidence that when someone wrongs us, they are not only hurting us but their complaints/wrongs are against God.

Personally, I am finding this realization along with the assurance that I am God’s child and a joint heir with Christ makes it easier to let go of offenses suffered and allow God the space to work in my life and leave it to Him to also work in the life of the one who may have brought some hurt or pain into mine…

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize the prisoner was you.” -Lewis B Smedes

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”                   -Corrie Ten Boom

They confronted me in the day of my distress, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. (‭Psalms‬ ‭18‬:‭18-19‬ HCSB)

May we find the love of Christ in our lives and find the love, mercy, and  compassion to forgive others!  Also, to be forgiven as we have forgiven and be full of His joy. Grace and peace to you this day!

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