… Reconciling the world unto God …
The Scripture used throughout this study is quoted from the King James Version. Any explanatory insertions by the author within a Scripture verse are enclosed in brackets [ ].
Late at night to the garden of Gethsemane over 400 soldiers came to take this one man captive. He willingly surrendered, was tied up, and taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest. Here his interrogation began during which time the soldiers beat on him repeatedly with a rod.
From Annas he was led to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the entire Sanhedrin council was gathered. They conducted an illegal trial in the middle of the night and could find nothing of which he was guilty. But when Jesus gave an affirmative answer to Caiaphas’ demand, ,,…tell US whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God,” he was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Then they began beating him without mercy; they spit on him and covered his face while taunting him to prophesy. While his head was covered they beat on it savagely. they did this all night long!
The next morning they held another illegal trial and decided to take him to Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. From Pilate he was dragged through Jerusalem to Herod the ruler of Galilee. (Herod was the one responsible for beheading Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.)
Herod, along with his men of war, treated Jesus with contempt.
When Herod was done with him they again dragged him across Jerusalem, back to Pilate. In Pilate’s custody much evil was done to him, and eventually he was given over to approximately 500 Roman soldiers to be mocked and tortured. They stripped him of his garments, placed a robe around him, put a crown of thorns on his head, and beat it into his head with rods. For some 18 hours hundreds of soldiers sadistically abused and tortured him.
The next morning he was led to Golgatha, where they crucified him. He hung on the tree until about three p.m. when he said, “It is finished, and died. During the 40 or so hours of his captivity he was utterly humiliated, illegally tried, condemned to death though guiltless; he was relentlessly mocked, savagely tortured, and crucified. If I were to describe in more detail the horrendous torture and humiliation Christ endured, you would surely be brought to tears and sickened for the sheer horror of it all.
What does a man, having endured so much undue evil, think while hanging on the tree to which he was nailed, with his life pouring out of him? We know his thoughts by the words he spoke. His thoughts for his mother were of concern for her well-being. His thoughts for his Father, God, were reverence, thankfulness, triumph, and fulfillment. His thoughts for a malefactor who hung with him were forgiveness and a promise of paradise. His thoughts for those who crucified him were, “FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.”
These words take our breath away! As astonishing as they may be, his thoughts on the cross were forgiveness for those who had made themselves his enemies. Would not most people’s minds be filled with self-concerns like sorrow, regret, fear mixed with anger, hate, and revenge? Not our lord!
Did these men deserve forgiveness? Was forgiveness the just recompense for their actions? Did they ask for forgiveness? No! No! No! Then why did Jesus Christ ask God to forgive them? Because he had a pure heart and a holy life! To forgive was his characteristic response because God reigned in his heart. Forgiveness for these men had nothing to do with what they deserved; rather it had everything to do with our Lord Jesus Christ’s heart of love and his unwavering desire to do his Father’s will.
Do we have the ability to forgive like Christ did? Yes! Yes! Yes!
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Verily, verily, 1 say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
We have Christ in us, enabling us to live the holy life he lived. Not only do we have the ability, but God fully expects us to conduct our lives in the same manner.
1 Peter 2:21-23:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously:
The way Jesus Christ thought and acted on the tree is the same way God expects for us to think and act today. His expectation is set forth in Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
We live in an evil world; and therefore, others will sometimes do things that hurt us. God’s Word gives us clear direction on how we are to respond – forgive!
Others’ actions toward us should not determine our behavior. Rather, just as Jesus Christ did, we should do all because of our relationship with God. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person, but has everything to do with our love for God and obedience to His Word. Remember what our lord taught us in the gospels?
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Can we love our enemies based on their behavior toward us? Do we bless them who curse us because of their words? Is the good we give to those who hate us going to be drawn out of us by them? The answer to all these questions is, “No!” We walk the love way because our Father loves us, and we love Him. Our actions are based on the purity of our hearts and not on people.
“He does not deserve to be forgiven!” So what? You forgive because of God, not him. “What about justice?” If you are looking for justice in this world you better pack a large suitcase because you are in for a long journey. God does not tell us to be concerned about justice. He tells us to love and forgive. Jesus Christ did not concern himself with justice, “but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” God is the just judge, not you or I.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; 1 will repay, saith the Lord.
God will bring justice at the end. There is an expression: “It all comes out in the wash.” In the end a large load of laundry will be done, but that is God’s concern, not ours.
Romans 12:20 and 21:
Therefore if tine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Not to forgive is to be, overcome of evil.” Why not busy ourselves with loving, and leave the judging to God. Forgiveness and love are a far superior way of living to having vengeance and a lack of forgiveness.
“How many times should I forgive this person? He keeps on hurting me over and over again.” Peter asked Jesus Christ the same question.
Matthew 18:21 and 22:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Forgiveness is not something to be measured out at certain times and limited at other times. Forgiveness is an attitude of heart one has for everyone all the time. Jesus gave Peter an illustration of this truth.
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
The man had received forgiveness for a debt of ten thousand talents, yet he would not forgive one who owed him only one hundred pence.
This example expands our understanding of Ephesians 4:32, “…even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” When we consider that for which God forgave us, forgiving others should never be a problem. No matter how great the offense of another, we can choose to forgive.
If you do not forgive, who is the one that ends up tormented? The person you refuse to forgive is not often removed from the hardness of your heart. When you refuse to obey God and to forgive, you are the one who is tormented. The one who dealt you the wrong is separate from the torment you entertain in your life. The hate, bitterness, and anger, that are cultivated by the lack of forgiveness are owned by you, housed in your mind. The cold, soured heart lives with you and ruins your fellowship with your heavenly Father.
When Jesus Christ gave an example of how to pray, he included the following.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Often Christians think that God’s forgiveness for them is theirs for the asking, regardless of how they treat others. But that which Jesus Christ spoke in this prayer is still the truth today. If we do not forgive others, God cannot forgive us because we simply are refusing to obey His commandments.
1 John 2:4,9:
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
After Jesus Christ ends what has come to be called “The Lord’s Prayer”, he continued and expanded on one point only – forgiveness.
Matthew 6:14 and 15:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Our refusal to forgive a brother breaks our fellowship with God. Now! What did this other person do that was so big and important that we would forfeit fellowship with our heavenly Father?
Just let the resentment go! Drop it like a rock into the deep, deep water. If not, it will be a weight around your neck which will cause you to drown in the dark waters of bitterness and despair.
There was a man in the Corinthian church who had apparently caused the believers much harm. The Apostle Paul instructed them to forgive this man in spite of his actions. Paul forgave the man; they should have too. You can read this record in II Corinthians 2. He concluded the exhortation with the following:
II Corinthians 2:11:
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
One of the devices Satan uses to the advantage of people is tricking them into not forgiving. The Word clearly shows us the lives of those who refused to forgive, and how Satan ruined their lives.
We do not have the time in the swiftly moving moments of our lives to reciprocate the evil done to us by others. Life is too short, and fellowship with God too sweet, to waste one moment in the negative web of not forgiving.
Forgiveness is not identical to trust, friendship, and fellowship and must not be confused as such. God does not command us to trust every man. Nor does He tell us we are to be friends of or keep company with those who refuse to live His Word. He does command us to love, forgive, not think evil of, and pray for people. When we are forgiving toward another we do not place our spiritual walk in jeopardy; quite the contrary, trusting and fellowshipping with someone who continues to hurt us can very well jeopardize our fellowship with God. To be forgiving does not mean to forsake wisdom and good sense.
The last thing to consider is how do we forgive? We know we are to forgive, and we may want to forgive, but still have trouble doing so. According to Matthew 12:34 and 35, good or evil is housed in the heart. Not to forgive is evil; therefore, the heart needs to change. Psalms 119:11 tells us to hide the Word in our hearts so that we do not sin. We must hide the Word in our hearts to have a genuine change of heart. But we are found wanting when we try to change our hearts on our own. We need God’s help.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
We can and should hide the Word in our hearts, but only God can make that Word have its impact there. We need to hide the Word in our hearts and ask God for His help.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Only God can clean our hearts of the hardness that holds the lack of forgiveness in and keeps the love out. God help us! Our Father is faithful to answer the prayers of those who want to live His Word.
God is loving and forgiving, and as His children we, too, should be loving and forgiving. Living this godly way is so much better than living the hardhearted life of those who refuse to forgive. Freedom from the anger, hate, bitterness, and such like that unforgiveness generates is superior living. Do yon want a peaceful abundant life or revenge?
Forgive and live!