"...Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37)
Have you ever had to forgive someone who had hurt you? Are you smiling? You say, "Yes, I certainly have!" Is there even a week that goes by in our lives that we don't have occasion to forgive someone? But sometimes there are things that happen to us that we find very hard, even impossible, to forgive. Then, what?
"God gave everyone a spiritual key ring. When you have a problem and the Lord shows you how to deal with it, that information is a KEY to put on your spiritual key ring. Later on, if you meet that problem again, you know how to cope with it...Also, later on, when you meet someone else who has the problem, you can share your key. Most of us face problems. The Lord teaches us lessons in those situations. If we just forget them, those experiences have been of little worth to us; but the person who puts the key onto a spiritual keyring is the one who knows how to deal with it next time, and is the one who knows how to comfort, and to share, and to encourage." (by Charles Jones, in "Leadership is for You" as quoted in "How to Hold an Audience without a Rope." by Clifford Warne and Paul White)
I will illustrate this idea with this large cardboard key with the word "forgive" on it for my "spiritual key ring" Maybe that will help us to remember to forgive others. Jesus said we are His disciples if we do the following things:
Verses 27 & 28 say, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you."
Wouldn't it have been so much easier if Jesus had simply said: "Keep away from your enemies. Don't aggravate them or do anything to annoy them. Just let the past be the past. 'Let sleeping dogs lie.' " We could manage that on our own! But, that is not what Jesus said! He actually tells us to love our enemy. do good to them! Bless them and pray for them
Why do you think Jesus would ask us to do the humanly impossible? How can we possibly do this - to love our enemies? Because we must have His love in us to do this. For it is beyond our own resources. We cannot truly forgive as Jesus forgives us without His power in our hearts. Remember, Jesus said that the same measure of forgiveness we give is what we will be forgiven by Him. If we want God's forgiveness, we must forgive others. But, it is in His power that we can do this.
It is easier to say, "I forgive him or her" in our minds, but it is quite another thing to actually do good to someone who hates us. But, this is what Jesus tells us we must do, if we are to be His disciples.
Verse 45 says, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." And, it goes on to say: "But why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?"
The guiding principle for us is what is called the "Golden Rule." Verse 31 says, "Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise." Or, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
Sometimes when we read these scriptures about forgiveness, it might seem so one-sided. We may have had someone deeply wound us, if not physically, perhaps emotionally. We know Jesus told us to forgive. We ask for His grace and power to forgive and we do this. Maybe the person accepts forgiveness and maybe they don't. But, what about those times we feel it is so unfair what the other person has done to us? Do we feel that our forgiveness is making a statement that what the other person did wasn't so bad after all? No! If I forgive a murderer, it does not mean that I agree with murder! But, I am not allowing the wrong things he has done to make me hate in return.
Sometimes you see court cases after someone has been convicted of a terrible crime. I remember hearing someone shout out to the guilty man "I hope you rot in hell." I couldn't help but wonder who I should feel sorrier for, the innocent victim and his family or the man who could not forgive. We can understand that feeling of anger against the wrong doer. But Jesus came to bring a greater love to us - a love that actually genuinely forgives those who have greatly wronged us. Yes, we must oppose evil. Genuine love resists evil and challenges wrongs done to others. But, we must remember that Jesus said that hate is as bad as murder and lust is as bad as adultery. What we do in our minds and hearts is just as bad in God's sight as the actual deeds of murder and adultery.
Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to actually go to or write to and tell them you forgive them and actually do some deed of kindness to let them know you forgive them?
Jesus told a story about how we can prove we love Him and forgive others. Verses 46-49 tell us that whoever hears His sayings and does them is like the man who built his house on firm foundations made from rock. When the floods came and beat against the house, it could not be shaken. But the foolish man who built his house on sand found that when the storms came, his house collapsed. Before Jesus told this story, he said "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord, and do not do the things which I say?"
Do it! If you want to prove to the Lord that you mean business with Him and you want to forgive your enemies - prove it by doing it! Don't wait for some "feeling" or someone saying something to you about it. Ask for His forgiveness and His grace to forgive and then do it!
Don't we all like prizes and awards? We are all kids at heart I think. And, Jesus has promised us a reward if we forgive! He says, "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." (verse 38) Wow! That is some promise! What does that phrase mean: "running over will be put into your bosom?"
In the time of Luke, who wrote this gospel, the people wore long, wide, loose robes. If they needed to carry anything they couldn't carry in their hands, they used a fold of their robe to carry it. (somewhat like carrying something in a big apron). When we forgive others and live in obedience to God as he outlines for us in this chapter, we will receive back from the Lord so much we won't be able to contain it. I don't mean material goods, I mean blessings from the Lord. When you have truly forgiven someone, you will know joy and peace and like a burden rolled off you. Even if they still have hatred for you, you can have peace in your hearts toward them. That is part of the "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over" that you can enjoy.
We have been having messages about how "Jesus lived among us." He gave us the key of forgiveness for our "spiritual key ring" to use as we live in this world. He walked this road before us. He experienced more than any of us will ever experience, hatred, betrayal and a cruel death. He not only died for our sins, but He lived the example of forgiveness before us, when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Have you asked for His forgiveness for your sins? Have you asked for His grace and power to forgive others? Is there someone you need to forgive today, this week? You know what to do. It is up to you to obey. May you know the peace and the joy that comes when you forgive as He has forgiven you.
Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life