“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” -Unknown
Forgiving freely is not that easy. Jesus knew it would be hard for us, and that is why He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39) Let’s be honest, if someone came up and slapped your face, your first reaction wouldn’t be to turn your unslapped cheek and say, “Here you go, you can slap this one too.” Human instinct is to slap back.
Slapping back would be okay if you were not a citizen of heaven. The Bible says, “For your citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior…” (Philippians 3:20) Once you decided to follow Jesus, you became a citizen of His kingdom, and with all kingdoms there are rules that must be followed. Some of His rules are:
- “Bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14)
- “Freely forgive” (Mark 11:25)
- “Do not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Peter 2:19-20)
These laws can be called, “the laws of love,” because Jesus said the whole law is summed up in love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
According to the dictionary our neighbor is: “One who lives near or next to another.” This will include all the people who are close to you. The people who shop in the same markets, your teachers, the people who work with you, your friends, your landlord, and your family. (We will look at forgiveness and family on a future date.) It is the people who live close to us that have the greatest power to hurt us. Sometimes it is a small irritation, maybe a lie or some inconvenience. Other times, it is a serious abuse resulting in great loss for us.
Whether the loss is large or small, the moment after we’ve been violated is when we must stop and think: Will we obey Christ’s words and forgive or will we lash out in anger and ruin our witness by taking revenge? It is important to remember in those moments of pain, that Jesus has promised we would encounter tribulation — but He would be with us!
Bible teacher, Winkie Pratney, tells a story along these lines… “When a barrel gets kicked, what is on the inside will tumble out. If there is bitter water, then that’s what will come. If the contents are sweet, then something sweet will flow. The kicks will come for each of us, but it is what we chose to do from the inside that counts. Hard times can either make us bitter or better.” The good news is that, “God works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) That means as we draw near to Him and release each circumstance into His care, the Lord can turn every stumbling block into a stepping-stone. The psalmist David wrote, “A righteous man may have troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all…” (Psalm 34:19)
“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” -2 Timothy: 2:24-25