For They Know Not What They Do (Forgiveness)
It’s so easy to get angry at those who have wronged us. Just the fact that we are living in this world subjects us to the wrath of the enemy and man. You can be driving down the street, minding your own business and someone honks and aims unfavorable gestures in your direction. Maybe you’ve been misunderstood or judged for something you did or did not do, or a loved one spewed some poison from their mouths, breaking your heart and spirit. The pain of the words spoken over you have the potential to hold you captive, paralyzing your growth. It can hover over you like a dark mist, clouding your view of God and His incredible love for you.
With every attack we have a choice to make. Do we retaliate with anger, allowing their behavior to affect us in a negative way? Well, that is the most natural response, but God’s ways are much higher and more affective than our own. Let’s think about what Jesus did for a moment. Being nailed to a cross, He asked His Father to forgive them. In the midst of such horrendous pain, His heart went out to those who were too lost to realize the extent of their actions. So too with Stephen, as he was being martyred for the sake of the gospel. He was so near the heart of God that he could see Jesus at the right hand of the Father and his love for man and their souls was greater than his pain. As he was breathing his last he cried out for their forgiveness! Such incredible love!
The sacrifice Jesus made for us is just too wonderful! It was our sin that nailed Him to that cross. It was His desire for us to be reconciled to His Father that brought Him there and even though He would have hoped for another option, He agreed to pay the greatest price for the evil we willingly committed!
Several years ago, I had a 66 mustang convertible I used as a daily driver. I drove it to work one day then to pick my kids up from school and when I came out my car had been stolen. As I prayed about this, the Lord showed me that I had 2 choices. Get angry or use this opportunity to slap the enemy in the face by praying for the person/people who did this. By them stealing my car, it put them on my radar for prayer. What if we began to pray for those who try to offend, hurt or steal from us? Isn’t that what we’ve been called to do as Christians? It may not come naturally, but you can make a spiritual decision that with God’s strength, you’ll forgive and show forth His love no matter what! That doesn’t mean there’s never lawful consequences for their actions and you may not be called to hang out with those who consistently hurt you, but what it does mean is that you cut the ties of unforgiveness from your heart and allow God to set you free from the pain. That’s a process that’s between you and God, not one with strings attached, expecting man to give you something they are not equipped to give. Just chose love and allow God to do the rest!
Matthew 5:43-48 (TPT) “Your ancestors have also been taught ‘Love your neighbors and hate the one who hates you.’ However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil. What reward do you deserve if you only love the loveable? Don’t even the tax collectors do that? How are you any different from others if you limit your kindness only to your friends? Don’t even the ungodly do that? Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, become perfect like him.”
Luke 23:34 (TPT) While they were nailing Jesus to the cross, He prayed over and over, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Acts 7:59-60 (TPT) As they hurled stone after stone at him, Stephen prayed, “Our Lord Jesus, accept my spirit into your presence.” He crumpled to his knees and shouted in a loud voice, “Our Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” And then he died.
Colossians 2:14 (TPT) He canceled out every legal violation we had on our record and the old arrest warrant that stood to indict us. He erased it all—our sins, our stained soul—He deleted it all and they cannot be retrieved! Everything we once were in Adam has been placed onto His cross and nailed permanently there as a public display of cancellation.