"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
"Forgive" - To pardon. To renounce anger and resentment. To absolve from payment.
Is there someone in my life whom I need to release from my anger and resentment?
"A wise (woman) will make haste to forgive, because (she) knows the true value of time."
"Nothing in this lost world bears the impress of the Son of God so surely as forgiveness."
Not long ago, I was reading words penned by noted theologian, C.S. Lewis. One of the things that draws me to his spiritual thoughts, is that like you and I, he struggled in his life with difficult questions that still plague every person who is attempting to know God in a personal way. I think his comment about forgiveness is one of the most honest I have ever read: "Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive."
I know I have felt the same way and you probably have, as well. It's nice to talk about forgiving until you are put into a circumstance that tears your heart apart or leaves your finances in a mess or ruins a wonderful friendship.
I wish to share a prayer with you entitled Forgiveness:
"Dear God, remember not only the men and women of goodwill but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us - remember the fruits we brought, thanks to this suffering; our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this - and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness."
I intentionally did not tell you who wrote this prayer because I wanted the beauty of this individual's forgiveness to shine through before I told you these words were written by an unknown woman, found on a piece of wrapping paper in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.
Once you realize the evil conditions under which this prayer of forgiveness was written, you find the words to be heavenly. They reflect the words of Jesus: "Father, forgive them."
And this brings us to the fact that while forgiveness is a quality of heaven, we live in a wicked world - where acts of untold and unspeakable cruelty abound. Yet, within this treacherous environment, our Father in heaven asks - even tells us - to forgive others.
Thankfully, Jesus' life on earth, gives us ample examples of forgiveness in action. And on a Friday over 2,000 years ago, Jesus left us with three lessons on forgiveness that apply to our lives in the 21st century.
These three examples are portrayed in the lives of three individuals:
Person #1 -- Peter
It was cold and the late night hour brought an even greater chill to the air. A crowd gathered in the courtyard, awaiting the trial of Jesus. Someone spotted a rough looking guy, his face slightly hidden in the shadows. "I've seen you somewhere. You look familiar to me." The man responded briskly, "You've got me mixed up with somebody else. I don't know what you're talking about." Another bystander joined in, "No, I think I saw you with the guy who is on trial. Are you one of those Jesus zealots?" The man, called Peter, became furious. "I thought I told you, I don't know the man, never did _____!" And he uttered a curse under his breath.
When Jesus needed one of his closest, most trusted friends, someone He loved, someone He had done many favors for, someone who was like family - Peter bailed, big time. Not only turned his back, but denied he had ever known Jesus at all.
Turn the clock forward to Sunday morning. A tomb is empty. A young man clothed in white garments has a message for the women who arrive at the tomb: "He is risen; He is not here; go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you to Galilee" (Mark 16: 4-7, K.J.V.)
Forgiveness in action - a message from Jesus to Peter. And here's the lesson for us. When someone you love, you trust, you count on betrays you - make the first move to offer forgiveness. Jesus didn't wait for Peter to say I'm sorry. Jesus didn't make Peter grovel. Instead, before Peter could do anything, Jesus, in a message from heaven let him know He was still loved. Peter still belonged, and Jesus let him know it. Make the first move. You'll never be sorry you did! By making the first move, Jesus' love melted Peter's heart, forever!
Person #2 -- The Roman Soldiers
These rough men were given a task - nail a rebel to a cross. They didn't know anything about this Man. For all they knew, Jesus was trying to overthrow their government. They had heard all kinds of rumors about Jesus - it was difficult to separate truth from fiction. So they did their job. That's what soldiers do BANG. BANG. BANG. A hammer on a nail. And then a voice broke the silence, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23: 34 K.J.V.) Forgiveness in action - a message from Jesus to soldiers who didn't know better, to men who didn't understand who Jesus was. And here's the lesson for us. When someone who doesn't know any better…who doesn't know the love of God, makes a mistake, we forgive. Why? Because our forgiveness may be just the light that illuminates their path to God. Jesus understood this and so He forgave the soldiers and what happened? Luke 23: 47 (K.J.V.) tells us: "Now when the Roman Centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous man.'" Forgiveness turned an unbelieving Roman soldier into a soldier of the Cross. Forgiveness that showed us how to love our enemies.
Person #3 -- The thief on the Cross
He hung next to Jesus - innocence side-by-side with a criminal. But he had heard, "Father, forgive" and he thought maybe, just maybe, there was hope for him. So he asked for forgiveness - and immediately this dying thief was given everlasting life by Jesus. Forgiveness in action - a message from Jesus to a thief. And here's the lesson for us. This thief didn't have time to prove to God that he had reformed. No matter how evil his past, no matter what he had done - Jesus forgave him, no questions asked, and get this, there were no conditions he had to meet except to come to Jesus "just as he was."
Forgiveness in action:
1.) Forgive by making the first move.
2.) Forgive those who don't know any better - even your enemies.
3.) Forgive without conditions.
Hannah More, a very prolific English, religious writer and philanthropist observed, "a Christian will find it cheaper to pardon than to resent. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, and the waste of our spirit."
As you and I follow Jesus on the path of forgiveness, heaven's light will illuminate our journey and as Jean Paul Richter noted: "Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness or forgiving another."
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven,
The hallowing of Your name
echoes through the universe.
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain
our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurt we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power
That is love, now and forever. AMEN!"
A New Zealand Book of Common Prayer
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $8.00. Or by calling Transformation Garden at 1-888-397-4348.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.