It happened a couple different times for the same person. This person is in prison for things that he did to my family, and yet I’ve felt led to pray for him. I was reading my Bible one day, reading Luke to be precise, and as I was reading about the end times, I started crying and “hyperventilating.” I didn’t want people to suffer the wrath that would come on the Judgment Day (I myself had recently been saved and had just asked to receive the Holy Spirit the day before), and the one person who was pressing on my heart was this man. I prayed. I prayed for his salvation, and I forgave him. Whenever I thought about this man I was engulfed in rage. I was so mad, and I could say I hated him. But that day I forgave him. I said the words, and I felt at peace. Now when I think of him I only feel compassion toward him. The rage, the anger, is gone. I want to see his life made new.
This is a difficult thing for many people. Forgiveness. Even I have a hard time forgiving people who have done things not even close to what this man did. I use that experience to remind me how easy it is to forgive when I have the help of the Holy Spirit. And I work at forgiving them. I know I’ll have to forgive them time and time again, but even Jesus said that we should forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. (Mt 18:22) I tell my kids how much that is and they look at me with wide eyes. I tell them that you have to forgive every single person 490 times. Each one! I explain to them how that means you should always forgive someone no matter what.
And the Bible is filled with forgiveness. The Israelites, while wandering the desert for those forty years, had to make atonement for their sins. If you read Leviticus chapter four, it explains who must atone for their sins, and exactly how to do it. It always required the sacrifice of an animal, whether a bull, a goat or a lamb, and always one without defect.
Every time they sinned (unintentionally), they had to make this sacrifice, but then they were forgiven. Without the sacrifice they could not be forgiven. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like during that time; wandering through the desert for forty years, and making all the required offerings, especially the one for sin. How often do we sin? We don’t go out of our way to sin, but we are not perfect and therefore fall into the trap. And yet, because of the sacrifice Christ made of Himself on the cross, we have been forgiven of all our past sins (the ones made before we became one in Him), and we are forgiven for the wrongs we do now. All we have to do is ask for it.
We don’t have to sacrifice an animal, for Jesus was the perfect lamb slain for us. That thought has so many different emotions set with it. For one, it brings awe. Awe that this man, who was still young by any standard, allowed Himself, without argument, to be beaten and mocked, and ultimately, killed. Awe because He did that for us. It wasn’t something He had to do. He could have said, “No.” But He didn’t. He took his torment silently, and even on the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34) Awe because He chose this to save us, grief because He went through such a painful death. And yet, joy and praise because He rose again, and the promise had been fulfilled.
And because of that, we are able to be saved; to be forgiven for all our wrongs. And we don’t have to work at it, just ask.
All over the New Testament we’re told to forgive as Christ forgave us. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:32) “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:13)
After reading those in the Bible, why WOULDN’T we want to forgive others. We have been forgiven, and we should forgive. We need to remember just how wonderful it feels to be forgiven by Him, and He is our example. We need to live a life pleasing to Him, and that means we need to be as He was; as He is. There are things that we think we can never forgive, but if we seek God, if we ask for help, then we will be able to forgive. We can’t do it on our own. We need His help. We also need the help of others on this earth. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
I continue to pray for the salvation of the man who hurt our family, and I still think of him with the same compassion I was given that first day I forgave him. I yearn for him to be able to meet the Lord face to face in heaven and live with Him all the days of his life. I pray for his life to be made new, and that Christ does something amazing in his life that may help other men in the same situation, or even before they get there. I pray that he will be lead to Christ, and then he will lead others to Him as well. God does amazing things, and through Him all things are possible.
And don’t forget. If you have chosen Christ, you HAVE been forgiven. Everything that happened before you accepted Him has been wiped clean. He keeps no record of wrongs; He purposely forgets, and they will never be brought up again. And each time you repent now you are forgiven, and that sin is gone. Forgive each other, no matter how big or how small the wrong may seem, and forgive yourself for whatever may be haunting you for it no longer matters if you’ve given it to Christ.
May the love and peace of Christ bless you, and may you seek Him with all your heart. May you know how precious to Him you are, how precious we all are, and may you thank Him always that He forgave you and continues to forgive, and that you ask for His help to forgive others. In Christ Jesus I pray, Amen.