How can you possibly forgive the driver who killed your precious child because they had to send a text message, the man who strangled your daughter, the group of kids who beat your son until he was lifeless? How do you forgive your spouse if your child died on their watch, or yourself if you feel somehow responsible for your child’s death?
The answer is I really don’t know. I don’t believe that human beings have the capacity to forgive in their own strength. Our DNA screams out for revenge, for blood for blood, for the right to stay angry, for the right to cry ourselves to sleep at night and never stop.
But does that change the circumstances? No. It cannot. All the screaming in the world won’t bring your daughter or son back to life. If it would or could, I would personally start a fund raising campaign to rent out the Astrodome and hold a “Scream Fest.” Without a doubt, the place would be sold out. Cities around the world would want to hold one of their own.
So why MUST we forgive. Because unforgivingness makes us old, robs us of our peace, robs of our joy, robs us of our energy because all our energy is given to the one we don’t want to forgive. Staying in unforgivingness is exhausting. Holding a grudge for a lifetime is like running a marathon every day. It is hard work. It ages us. It makes us ill. It hurts everyone around us. It causes separation in families. It causes division. It causes pain.
So HOW do we forgive? We get on our knees and ask Jesus to please help us. We tell the truth. “God, I do not think this person deserves my forgiveness. I do not think this person is even sorry for what they did. But I trust that you have seen what has happened. I trust that you are a good God and that You are a just God. I turn the situation over to you. I give you my anger. I give you my resentment. I give you my pain. I give you my desire to right this wrong in my own human way. I ask you to give me the power to lay the situation at the foot of the cross. This person took my child, let me not give them the rest of my life, too. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
When Jesus walked the earth, the disciples asked him to teach them to pray. He gave them the following prayer, which is referred to as the Lord’s prayer:
So we are to forgive each other as God forgives us. Well, you ask, how is that. Well, I’ll answer, completely – instantaneously – unconditionally. The bible says once we ask God to forgive us, it is over. It is as far as the east is from the west. He doesn’t hold it against us. He doesn’t bring it up in future conversations. Isn’t He truly amazing. That is why He is God. He does stuff we would rather not do.
Okay, so Jesus said that we should forgive each other. But did He walk it out? He sure did. He gave us the example. He showed us the way. That is what He came to do. Show us how to live this life. The Jewish high priests and elders accused Jesus of blasphemy because he said that he was the “King of the Jews”They wanted him put to death, because they were outraged that he would not do what they wanted him to do if he was, in fact, the King of the Jews – overthrow the Roman government.
Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea. Although Pontius Pilate found him innocent and could not find a reason why Jesus should be condemned, he feared the crowds and washed his hands of the situation. Jesus refused to testify on his own behalf. He was stripped of his clothing, a scarlet robe was placed around him and a crown of thorns pierced his head as the accusers mocked him.
Jesus was beaten with a leather thonged whip. Tiny pieces of iron and bone chips were tied to the ends of each leather thong so that the beating would cause deep cuts and painful bruising. He was spat on. They put his clothing back on him and forced him to carry his own cross. They could have taken his life with the beating with the cat of nine tails because it did so much damage as it ripped the flesh off his back, but they wanted his death to be as slow and painful as possible. They were mad. They wanted him dead. They wanted to enjoy every minute of the process of his death.
Stake-like nails were driven through his wrists and ankles, fastening him to the cross where he was crucified between two criminals. This fulfilled Psalm 22:16 which says “His hands and feet would be pierced.” They stripped him of all his clothing in the hope of stripping him of his dignity. They cast lots for his clothing. Psalm 22:18says ‘His garments would be claimed by others by the the casting of lots.’
It took six long hours for Jesus to slowly die. They usually broke the legs of those who were hung on crosses so death would come quickly. They broke no bone in his body. This fulfilled God’s word in Psalm 34:20 “No bone in His body would be broken.”
From the cross, Jesus said “Forgive them for they do not know what they do.” If you or I had been tortured, humiliated and killed in such a cruel manner for a crime we did not commit, our words would probably be more like – “I pray revenge on your souls. I ask for payback. I ask for my father’s wrath to pour out all over you and your future off spring.” That is why Jesus is called the spotless Lamb of God.
He shed his blood for you and I on that day not only so that we could have eternal life in heaven, but have more abundant life in this world. So that by his blood, we would have the power to forgive the wrongs done to us no matter how wrong they are. And some people have had some mind boggling wrongs done to them. Thank God our God is bigger than the biggest wrong that you could document.
Not only did Jesus ask for forgiveness for those who put him to death, He granted forgiveness to the thief on the cross next to him. The thief had confessed his wrong. He lost his life on this earth plane, but Jesus promised him that he would spend eternity in heaven with Him and His Father because he confessed his wrongdoing and Jesus, by the power given to him by his heavenly father, gave him that forgiveness.
We hear this story every Easter as we are thinking about whether to serve spiral ham or rib roast for Easter dinner. Whether we should wear that white dress that hangs in our closet or go out and buy a new one. As we think about which pair of shoes shoes would work best – oh there are so many to choose from but maybe I should get a new pair anyway while I am at at the mall. And who should we invite for dinner. Should we seat the children at a separate table in the kitchen? I bet Bobby has outgrown his dress slacks. He has grown so much from last year. Better put shopping for clothes for the kids on my “to do” list. Oh so many decisions to make and things to do to celebrate Easter. And yes of course, we should probably make an appearance at church.
I’ll go on line and see where the closest church is and how short a service they have. Don’t want to waste too much time. I have heard that same story every year since I was a kid. I know the whole thing. And then they will take up an offering. I hate that. I would go more often if they didn’t pass that plate around and guilt everyone into putting our hard earned money into keeping the doors of their church open. Wish I didn’t have to go to church on Easter Sunday. I really could use the extra sleep. But my mother will give me hell if she finds out I skipped church on Easter. And Grammy would roll over in her grave and ask God to send a swarm of locusts to hover my home. Let me do some research and find a pastor who can keep it short and sweet and not too emotional. Maybe a church with a choir so I won’t have to sing myself. I really hate singing those songs when I really don’t mean any of words.
It was a story. But it isn’t a tale from long ago that has no current relevance. It is THE STORY. It is the only one that counts. It is the only one with eternal value. Jesus died so that you wouldn’t have to. He took the place of the lamb sacrifice that was required every year at what is called Passover. He died so you could have the power to forgive the unforgiveable, the power to forgive the big stuff and the little stuff of life.
Forgiveness is the ultimate challenge. But it will change your life. It will change the way you live out the rest of your life. God does not want you to stay in that place of unforgivingness Forgiving yourself is sometimes even harder than forgiving someone else. But this is just as important. Seek the help of the one who taught us how to figure – Jesus. He will set you free so that the rest of your life can be lived with meaning and purpose.
The late Robert Muller, former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, wrote these words on forgiveness.
DECIDE TO FORGIVE
Decide to forgive For resentment is negative Resentment is poisonous Resentment diminishes and devours the self. Be the first to forgive, to smile and take the first step And you will see happiness bloom On the face of your human brother or sister. Be always the first Do not wait for others to forgive For by forgiving You become the master of fate The fashioner of life A doer of miracles. To forgive is the highest, Most beautiful form of love. In return you will receive Untold peace and happiness. And here is the program for receiving a truly forgiving heart:
SUNDAY: Forgive yourself. MONDAY: Forgive your family. TUESDAY: Forgive your friends and associates WEDNESDAY: Forgive across economic lines within your own nation THURSDAY: Forgive across cultural lines within your own nation FRIDAY: Forgive across political lines within your own nation SATURDAY: Forgive other nations.
A Mother Forgives
One of the greatest stories I have ever heard about forgiveness is one that I read in the newspaper a few months ago. The newspaper headline read “Killer of Mother’s Son Moves Next Door to Her.” I was waiting to hear of the outrage of a mother whose son’s murderer moved in next door to her and made her live in fear and terror. I was ready to be angry and outraged. I was ready to read why the landlord would allow such a horrible thing to happen. What a greedy, heartless man he must be to put rent money above the safety of one of his tenants.
But that was not the story at all. A teenage boy was shot and killed. A horrible and senseless tragedy. A mother left to cry and miss her son the rest of her life. A life cut short by some stupid kid with a gun. Oh when would the lesson of the danger of guns be learned. I hope soon. The victim’s mother was a Christian. Not a Christian in name only. But a woman of God. A woman who was a follower of Jesus Christ. A woman who strived to live life like her redeemer lived his life.
She visited her son’s killer in jail. She began speaking to him about Jesus. She kept visiting him. He son’s murderer accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. When he got out of jail, she approached her landlord and asked if he could rent the apartment next to hers. And that is how she wound up living next door to the man who took her son’s life.
They are friends. They watch out for each other. The man who was responsible for her son’s death is a changed man. He has been transformed by the blood of Jesus. His victim’s mother has forgiven him. He struggles with forgiving himself. He doesn’t even recognize that old person. He is so far from that person today. He thanks God every day for a chance to live the rest of his life contributing to society instead of doing just the opposite. Someday he will meet the boy he killed in heaven. He looks forward to that day.
He thanks Jesus for everything that was done upon the cross for him, and thanks this woman of God for showing him Jesus by example. For putting aside her own loss. She knew all the tears in the world would not bring her son back to her in this life, but she stood on the promise of God that she would spend eternity with her son. She made the choice to bring the man who fired the shot that changed her life with her to heaven. I didn’t keep the article so I don’t know your name woman of God, but God does and you bring a smile to His face because you get it. You truly understand one of the hardest things us humans are called to do. Forgive one another.
Unforgivingness is like swallowing rat poison to kill the rat that scampers throughout your home. Does it kill the rat? Can it kill the rat? NO. But it can and will kill you. Choose life and life more abundantly. Choose to forgive and leave the rest in your outstretched hands and give it to God. His hands are bigger than yours.
Forgive the big stuff and forgive the little stuff. Husband who told your wife that you forgave her indiscretion but really hasn’t, Really mean it. Wife who told your husband that you forgave him for forgetting your anniversary ten years ago but has brought it up in every fight since that, time let it go. Brother who won’t speak to your sister because of childhood hurts. Let go. Move past it. Start fresh. Friend who ended a friendship over a stupid fight. Pick up the phone.
It is often very difficult for a child to forgive a father who abandoned them when they were young,or a mother who gave them up for adoption because she wasn’t ready to be a responsible parent. These children often times spend their lifetimes angry that their father wasn’t “Father of the Year” or their mother for not being “Mother of the Year.” But I will tell you the truth. God felt this was so important that he made Commandment #V in the Ten Commandments.
Remember that movie classic starring Charleston Heston. Commandment V:
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God given thee.
Every parent has fallen short. Some more than others. But there is no perfect parent. We all make mistakes. We all blow it. We all wish we could use some white out when writing our life’s story. We all have regrets and “if onlys,” but God is a God of unity. He is a God of mended relationships. He is great with a needle and thread. The pieces can be resewn. He’ll add some fabric, take away some fabric. Trust Him – the quilt will be far more beautiful than you could have ever imagined.
“Heavenly Father you gave us the greatest example of forgiveness through your son. Help us to be more like Jesus each day. Help us to forgive those who have hurt us, caused us pain, took those we love from us. Help us to forgive ourselves. Help us to be set free from the bondage of unforgivingness. Help us to heal. Help us to move on. Help us to move forward. Help us to live each day of our lives with peace, joy and purpose. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.”