I heard someone say this week that Christians are the only ones who are required to forgive and love their enemies. Think about that for a moment. The world certainly doesn’t teach forgiveness because the world is too self-centered. The other religions of the world don’t teach forgiveness either. In fact they often teach quite the opposite, to seek revenge. In some religions the ultimate sacrifice to make is to blast someone who has harmed you in some way with revenge. I think about some of the old Chinese movies that I watch, plotting revenge and carrying out revenge is a common theme. In the Middle Eastern religions honor killings are quite common which is a form of revenge. Yet followers of Jesus, followers of The Way, Christians, are taught something much different.
“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-14, (New International Version or NIV).
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. ’ ” Luke 11:1-4 (NIV).
You see, for Christians there is no room for revenge. In fact Jesus teaches us to forgive those who hurt us, those who have harmful intent and commit horrible acts toward us as well as those who unintentionally do harm to us. The crime perpetrated toward us is to always be forgiven. This is a hard teaching to follow and I have had to do a lot of soul-searching to forgive those who have harmed me throughout my life, but it can be done. Forgiveness can come but often it takes some time to work through the pain and betrayal. God is gracious to us and gives us time to work out our forgiveness of others and I am so thankful for such love from our Father. How can we forgive the unforgivable, you may ask, well the answer is Jesus.
This past week we have celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ in the holiday we have come to love, Christmas. We have heard the story of His birth and how He came into this world and how Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt because King Herod was planning on killing the Baby Jesus. That was the first attempt on Jesus life but there would be others, (Matthew 2:16). As Jesus grew into adulthood and started His three-year ministry there were many attempts to kill Him but He always slipped through the crowds and got away (John 8:59, John 10:39, Luke 4:29-30). Jesus was never killed until it was the time for Him to be the once-for-all Sacrificial Lamb that took the sins of the entire human race into Him and gave us the opportunity to make peace with God through Jesus Christ.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, (NIV).
You see as followers of Christ, as Christians, we are to no longer think with worldly views. Revenge is a world viewpoint. Not forgiving others for harm they have caused us is a world viewpoint. We are being renewed; our hearts are changing because we are reading the Bible and applying what it says to our daily life. We are a picture of Christ to the world! Christ forgave King Herod for wanting Him dead as a babe; Christ also forgave those who had a part in His death here on earth, (Luke 23:34). Being a follower of Christ is to follow the examples set forth by Christ while living on this earth and one of those teachings is to forgive others every single time we are harmed! We can only do the work of forgiveness because God gave us the Holy Spirit to reside inside our hearts and helps us to do what the world can’t do, which is to forgive others and to love others and to keep learning more and more about our gracious God (John 14:26)! The world does not have the love of God in them because they follow Satan and not God. We can only forgive and we can only love because Christ loves us so much. Thank you Jesus, for your teachable love! Happy New Year everyone!
Until next time…Katherine