“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
She didn’t ask for forgiveness that I recall, but I offered it. I gave it away because forgiveness is “for-giving.” The words ruminating in my head for weeks prior were, “But if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14) The Greek root word of “forgive” is “charis,” meaning “grace.” Because God graced me, I am commanded to extend that same grace to those who wrong me—even if they don’t ask to be forgiven.
Forgiveness is not a feeling; it’s a choice. If I waited for warm, fuzzy feelings to accompany forgiveness, I’d still have a pile of grudges as high as the stack of clothes on my daughter’s bedroom floor. The action precedes the feeling. In all actuality, the feeling to forgive may never appear.
Forgiveness is a process. Just when I think I have forgiveness licked, some new event re-opens old wounds forcing me to re-examine my heart. And just for the record, the old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is grossly untrue. I’ve encountered plenty of people who have allowed bitterness to fester and grow like poison ivy. As they rehearse and regurgitate all the wrongs committed against them, they spew their toxin, infecting those around them with their poisonous words. Rather than recognizing the gigantic log in their eyes, they’ve pinpointed the microscopic speck in their offender’s eyes. The reality is God heals us, not time, but in time, He will heal us if we allow Him access to our hearts. For, the more our hearts soak in His lavish grace, the more we realize how desperately lost we are without it. Being stingy with grace causes a ripple effect as we realize unforgiveness costs our peace. “For if we haven’t received God’s forgiveness, we are weighed down by guilt and fear, and if we haven’t extended it, we are assaulted with anger and the agonizing need to get even.” (Kelly Minter)
Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:28)
The word “bless” literally means “to speak well of.” So, let me get this straight. I am supposed to speak well of those who wish evil against me? But I don’t want God to bless them! Not today anyway. Occasionally, when I’m in a particularly magnanimous mood, I can pray this way. When I feel generous and a bit good-natured, I send blessings. However, as I read this passage, it hits me square between the eyes. Jesus doesn’t say, “When you feel charitable, bless those who mistreat you.” Like the Nike slogan, He says, “Just Do It!”
If the first part of the verse isn’t challenging enough, I’m supposed to pray for those who insult me, treat me abusively, use me despitefully, revile me, accuse me falsely and threaten me. That’s a command way above my pay grade. In my human frailty, I can’t possibly achieve this. And honestly, I don’t even want to! Still, I know that as a follower of Jesus, I can’t pick and choose which of His words to obey. So, I pray for the want to—to want to. I realize my example is One who committed no sin, yet was betrayed, abused and broken. I offended Him and still He died for me. How can I opt out of blessing those who curse me, when I myself have cursed Him in my words and actions?
As I rely on His help to accomplish this great task, of returning blessing for cursing, praying for abusing, God promises that I will inherit a blessing.
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)
The act of blessing yields blessing, and who doesn’t desire that? The act of blessing not only changes me but opens up my heart to desire good for my enemy. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for because frankly, I’m not quite there yet.
Care to step into that realm of blessing for cursing together? If so, do this exercise with me: