Colossians 3:12-13 - Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
I have had a recurring thought. As believers we are called to do as the scripture above tells us...to forgive. 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 spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45) (Luke 6:27-28, Romans 12:14)
We are called to pray for our enemies, or those who despise us. Why do we choose to let frustration and anger reside within us? All we're doing is causing it to fester. I've been guilty of this. I'm guessing the Lord is trying to get my attention.
One day I went through a scenario in my head. Someone is murdered. The initial reaction is shock, grief and anger. One might want revenge. One might hope for the severest form of punishment upon the killer. But look at what it says above. Love your enemies. Oh, how that so goes against our human way of thinking.
I've seen programs or news briefs where a family member has been senselessly killed, whether by accident or intentionally. In most cases they are angry. I've heard people say they would never forgive them. Some will forgive that person. I wondered what I would do. I know what I'm supposed to do.
Here's where the scenario went: what if I could be instrumental in ordering the final sentencing? Would I want life or death? Would I want death for this person? My answer became no. Then I had to go further, questioning my motive. Was it because I would want them to have to continually suffer the punishment for what they did? Ouch. That would be my way of exacting my own revenge. But then my thought transferred to what God would want.
The death penalty could bring a person into submission to God, or just add to their resentment of or unbelief in Him. It could cause a brokenness that would lead the killer into repentance and salvation. These things we might never know.
However, a sentence of life in prison could do the same. It would give a person the chance to receive Christ's forgiveness. And if forgiveness was granted to this person by the grieving person or family, how much more would it cause the killer to give thought to what he (or she) had done? It might be the very thing that would bring one more sorry soul into the kingdom. God wishes that none would perish.
God is no respecter of persons. All have sinned and fallen short of His glory. All meaning every one of us is guilty of sin in the eyes of God. We all need to repent. We are all equal in God's eyes. One sin is not greater than another to Him. Jesus was here to show He was willing to forgive all, no matter what their standing, no matter what their sin. But...they had (and still have) to repent and receive Him, not get angry or proud and say they don't need Him, they don't need to change their ways or thoughts or actions. A change of heart is what needs to take place.
It's why we must forgive. Jesus forgave all from the cross. In our pride we have put ourselves, those who have not committed great crimes, in better standing with God. We are not. We all have dark, ugly hearts, hearts only the Lord Jesus Christ can change. If we are in Christ we still harbor inappropriate thoughts, words, actions. Our hearts are inherently wicked. Somehow, though, if we are in Christ, have repented of our sins, confessed Him publicly, live for Him, seek Him daily, commune with Him, and repeatedly repent of the sins we commit, His blood covers those sins. What a hard thing to comprehend, takes faith to believe.
There was a woman who was caught in adultery. The punishment in Jesus' day was being stoned. The religious leaders were ready to do so. Jesus made one simple comment: He who has never sinned, cast the first stone. All the men walked away. It's the same with us. None of us are free from sin. None of us can rightfully exact revenge. That right belongs to God.
Now, we are allowed to judge. But not with bitter, hateful or angry hearts. We are allowed to judge righteously. If something goes against the Word of God we have a right to judge. I've seen enough garbage on Facebook to irritate me. Fake news, wrong thinking. Some of it can be very irritating, especially if it is an offense to what I know God's Word says to be wrong. I can judge that. But at the end of that judgment the thought always comes...they don't know any better. They do not know Christ nor do they know the truth. It causes a right judgment on my part! I feel sad for them. I feel sad that they do not know the truth and are adamant in their angry defense of the cause(s).
I'm praying that God will help me further in my, oftentimes, inability to just let something go and forgive. This is all part of His process of sanctification. Bring it on! Will we choose to do this?
Luke 23:34a - Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”