As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, “Lord Jesus, please welcome me!” 60 He knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don’t blame them for what they have done.” Then he died. Acts 7:59-60 (CEV)
Forgiveness, as one of the tenets of my faith, is surely simple but not easy. In that dramatic moment as He was nailed to the cross, Jesus taught me about the power of forgiveness. And here, in one of this week’s lectionary passages, Stephen follows Christ’s example and forgives. Will I also follow Jesus even on a difficult path?
One of the most important parts of my daily time with Jesus is when I ask the Holy Spirit to bring to my mind sins I may have forgotten or maybe I am trying to ignore. It isn’t always easy but when I acknowledge these sins and ask Jesus to forgive – the weight and burden of those sins are lifted from me. Oh how wonderful is our LORD! But Jesus wants me to have more. He wants me to forgive and receive the tremendous blessings He gives.
Forgiving someone breaks bitterness and hatred which wants to make a permanent home in my heart. It’s like an infection in some part of my body that, when left alone, becomes a system wide infection. When a patient becomes septic (systemic infection), death is not far behind. In the physical world, the infection often begins from a tiny, untreated wound. “No big deal.” But left untreated, the small wound becomes lethal. Unforgiveness toward someone festers and infects my whole life.
Love my neighbor as myself. I can speak of loving everyone – except …. There are no exceptions in Jesus’ teaching.
Love the LORD with all that I am. Does the “all” of me include the part I am holding back in unforgiveness? That part will be a wall which not only separates me and the one I cannot forgive but it also separates God and me. I might be able to convince all the people around me that I am a “super Christian” but God knows the truth. I know the truth.
The details of reconciling I believe are something the Holy Spirit will reveal. It may involve speaking forgiveness to the person. It may be kneeling at Jesus’ knee and confessing what is in my heart and releasing my unforgiveness. There is no doubt in my mind and spirit when the unforgiveness is broken and God’s reconciliation is achieved.
Take time with Jesus today. Allow His Spirit to “scan” your heart and spirit and receive the LORD’s true reconciliation in all aspects of your life. It may not be painless but it does bring a cure to a part of you which could be ailing. God is the Great Physician and can be trusted. No matter the circumstances, God knows and is big enough to take the burden you carry. The circumstances surrounding unforgiveness may be horrendous and something you cannot imagine speaking aloud. Jesus knows your story already. His arms are strong enough to hold and comfort you as you spew the ugliness which has kept you bound. Cry out to God and see how He is there before the cry passes your lips. Receive God’s healing which never fails. You are His child and He wants you well and strong.
Cry Out to Jesus written and sung by Third Day