(Luke 23:33) And when they came to the place which is called Calvary, they crucified Him and the criminals there, one on the right, and one on the left. (Luke 23:34) And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. And parting His clothing, they cast lots. (Luke 23:35) And the people stood watching. And also the rulers with them, scoffing, saying, He saved others, let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ, the chosen of God (MKJV).
What a remarkable scene we have here. Before we can understand it we must first realize the awesome sacrifice that our savior made. The apostle John records that Christ was present at the very beginning of time (John 1:1-14). As we consider this fact we realize that our savior volunteered to come into this world knowing all along the suffering that he would face. Such suffering that is beyond our comprehension there is no way that we can imagine the combined physical, emotional, and mental suffering that Christ endured just for you and me. Yet we find the above passage of scripture.
Here is Christ being mocked, ridiculed, and most of all crucified a very horrible and totally brutal form of execution. How many times in life have we been mistreated and just wished the worst on those who mistreated us? How often do we want to get even and pay someone back for what they have done to us? Many times we are well within our rights to want vengeance. How can we as mere mortals forgive the unforgivable?
Scripture tells us that vengeance belongs to God and that he will repay those who have done us wrong (Romans 12:19). However for many of us that is just not good enough we want to get even. As I teach this lesson I must teach myself because there are those who have wronged me terribly, yet there is Christ.
How do we forgive? How do we forgive that spouse who was unfaithful? How do we forgive the person or persons who may have abused us for years? How do we love the unlovable? How do we forgive those who stole from us? How do we forgive those who lied on us? How do we forgive those who mistreated us even in the church? It’s hard, it’s impossible. Is it? How do we forgive the murderer? How do we forgive the drunk driver that killed our loved one? It’s impossible or is it?
(Mat 5:44) But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you,
How in the world do we do this? Well first of all let us look at Christ. Here he tells those in his hearing to love their enemies knowing all along that he would one day have to past the ultimate test of forgiveness. He would have to beseech the Father to forgive the very people who tortured him beyond recognition and unjustly accused him, even ridiculed and mocked him. Yet he forgave. Webster’s Dictionary says that an art is “a specialized skill or knowledge”. Therefore in order for us to obtain and master the Art of Forgiveness it takes practice. How many times have you gotten bent out of shape over something minor? How many times have you had arguments and disagreements only to look back and realize that it was not as serious as you made it out to be? Learning to forgive takes practice and it starts with the little things. Instead of blowing up next time count to ten and forget about it. Instead of arguing with your spouse overlook their short comings and strive for better communication. Instead of chewing the children out about every little thing gently remind them and find something good to say about them. Once we practice forgiveness of the minor issues of life then with God’s help we can learn to forgive the major ones.
Hell is going to be full of people who earned every second that they will spend there throughout eternity. However some of the people who have done some of the most hideous things imaginable will spend eternity in paradise. Not because God overlooked their wrong doing but because before they left this earth they accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. One thing God has impressed on me is that I will spend eternity with some who have done me wrong. There will be no grudges or ill will in heaven. None of us will have any more right than anyone else to be there. It is only because of the awesome sacrifice of Christ that any of us will see and live in paradise.
Today is the day and now is the time. Why not call, write, or e-mail someone today and say I forgive you. Why not give your husband or wife the benefit of true forgiveness. Why not embrace your children and let them know that you love them. Tell them to forget about the dishes and their messy room and let’s go to the movies. Call that old friend that you haven’t spoken to in years and tell them that you love them and you want them back in your life. When things get tough and you find it hard and impossible to forgive, just picture our savior hanging on that cross beyond recognition, bruised, hurting, thirsty, and tortured just for you. Picture him saying these words Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
Be Encouraged and Blessed Minister Mike.