Forgive – as you would be forgiven

20130122_125304Do you ever have that one person that just annoys you? They did something one time that really ticked you off and now they just irritate you. Or maybe you were once really good friends and the other person betrayed you. You forgave but things will “never be the same”.

We have all experienced these kinds of situations and processed them the same way. I have been studying lately about what the Bible has to say about dealing with them. Jesus prayed for His disciples that they would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21).

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are individual but inseparable. One of them cannot do something that would cause another to leave the tri-unity of the God-head. Why do we as mere men think that we can stand above such unity and refuse to let God heal a relationship?

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” 1 John 3:14

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16

We choose to live in death when we don’t love. It is one thing to say that you have forgiven and another thing entirely to be able to lay down your life for someone that has hurt you. I believe that for us, it isn’t just literal, but figurative. When was the last time that you did something inconvenient for you that meant a lot to someone that gets on your nerves?

This goes for coworkers, family members, people that you go to church with; take that one person that “ticks you off”, and write them a note. Tell them how much you appreciate something that they have done. You have to change the way that you think about them. You have to tell yourself that they are worth laying down your life/will for. Jesus did. Who are we to say that they aren’t worth the effort.

Every relationship is worth the effort. Pray for that person. Ask for God’s blessing over their lives. It can be hard to do at first, but it will soften your heart toward them. Jesus said that if we don’t forgive, God can’t forgive us (Matthew 18:35, 6:15).

I believe to the degree that we do or don’t forgive, God will or won’t forgive us. Do we want God to give us the cold shoulder? Do we do it to others? Do we want things to “never be the same” with our Heavenly Father? Then why do we think that way? This is not discounting the fact that sometimes the other person does not want to reconcile, but have we done everything in our power to bring peace to the relationship? Is your heart at peace with the other person? Most importantly, is your heart right with God about the situation?

I have to say in closing that I am far from perfect. This is something that we as Christians give ourselves to daily to keep our hearts from growing hard. And that as we let God deal with our hearts, He does. We want the love and forgiveness of God to flow to us, so we must let it flow through us. Forgiveness for others is born out of a heart that wants to be close to God and wants nothing to come between Him and you.

 

For the researcher’s heart:

Matthew 6:9-15 – The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 18:21-35 – The Unforgiving Servant

1 John 3:14-18 – Loving each other

1 John 4:11-12,20-21

1 John 5:1

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The Heartbeat of God

Pondering the love of God today…

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

One part at a time: God so loved the world that He gave… Most everyone when they love, they give. It is easy to do. When a young couple falls in love, they will do all sorts of things for each other. Parents will do just about anything for their children in the name of love.

But how many people would give their only son for someone else? How many would willingly offer their son’s life in the place of a stranger, even a criminal? How many would allow their son to give his life if he wanted to?

And yet, the King of the universe gave His only Son to take my place. I didn’t deserve it. God owed me nothing. In fact, by the way I lived; I was one to spit in His face. But in spite of who I was and am, He still loves me.

It redefines love. But God is love, I think He has the best definition. God’s love is and always will be the greatest love. It never changes. The Bible says that God never changes, so His love can never change. The same desire, the same love that led Him to give His Son, still wants to spend eternity with us.

The heart of God beats for people. It beats that we could know Him and be close to Him. He wanted us to have eternal life. We were meant for heaven, not hell. Jesus took our place, we were deserving of death and He died in our stead that we might live forever with Him in paradise. God so loved that He gave. He gave the most precious thing that He had that, if we will believe, we can be with Him.

He Took My Place

I’ve been thinking a lot about Barabbas. He was a criminal, tried and true. He was in prison waiting to be executed for his crime. But he was released.

I find myself putting my name in place of his. I am a sinner, tried and true. Even though I have never been convicted of a crime or even had a speeding ticket, I am still guilty. Guilty of what? Guilty of breaking God’s law. The Ten Commandments are there to show us right from wrong.

Let’s pick one: Thou shalt not lie. I love the Old King James, it makes it sound so much more important. But, we have all lied, even if it was only a little white lie. A lie is a lie.

Thou shalt not steal. Most of us at one time or another, to some degree, have taken something that doesn’t belong to us. Guilty. Thou shalt not murder. OK! I can safely say that I have never killed anyone. But, the Bible says that if you hate someone in your heart than you are a murderer (1 John 3:15). Ouch! Guilty. Three for three.

But just like in the story of Barabbas, Jesus took my place. He took upon Himself the sins that I have committed, the lustful thoughts, the thoughts of hate, the wrong things I have done. The Bible says that He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I was deserving of death, for the payment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus, the only one who had no sins of His own to pay for, took mine and yours upon Himself to pay the price that you and I could not pay.

Why? So that we could spend eternity with Him. Sin keeps us away from God. God is so perfectly holy that it is against His very nature to dwell with darkness. That is why Jesus came.

I cannot read the story of the cross without tears, knowing that it was for me that He was crucified. Now I walk in freedom from sin because of it. I put myself in Barabbas’ shoes and can only imagine how he felt to know that an innocent man was killed in his stead.

Let us remember the cross as we live our lives. Remember what He has done, so that we live a little differently. The best part of the story is not just that He died for us, but that He rose again. Death could not hold the Prince of Life. The Spirit of God raised Him from the dead and He lives to give us freedom over the things that would hold in bondage.

Acquitted

Deep in a dank Roman prison a criminal awaits justice. He has been tried and found guilty. There were multiple witnesses.

“Murderer! Murderer!” He would forever hear the crowd screaming. Thankfully he had not long to live in the torment. The guilt and remorse were tearing at him. He hardened his heart. He would no longer feel emotion.

He had no sense of time, but he knew that the execution had to be in the next twelve hours or so. His hands got clammy. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead and his mouth went dry. A Roman cross was his fate. He had killed a Roman citizen. The Roman’s dealt harshly with murderers.

He heard the guard coming. Not yet! It was too soon. What was happening?

The keys rattle in the door and the guard enters. He has a mean look about him. Or maybe that is just how all Roman guards are.

Roughly jerked to his feet by his own chains, he moans in pain. Where are they taking him? The courtyard, not another beating! He isn’t sure that he could live through another like the last one.

The guard pushes him ahead, down the corridor and up the stone stairway. The blinding sunshine hits his face, leaving the darkness of the prison behind. They come to the courtyard. His pulse starts to race.

Why are there so many people? The courtyard is jammed full. This isn’t just a crowd. This is a mob! And they are angry.

Why? He wonders.

“Crucify him! Crucify him!” Barabbas’ heart pounds even harder. He is already on death row. Why are they again demanding that he be crucified? As his vision clears he sees a man standing before the judgment seat. He has seen this man before.

Jesus, the Nazarene, stands before Pilate, the Roman governor. What has he done? Barabbas begins looking around. He recognizes the Jewish leaders standing with Jesus. He begins to understand. Jewish justice will not crucify this man, but Roman cruelty will. The Jewish leaders are trying to convince the governor that this man is worthy of death.

Pilate stands. The crowd hushes.

“It is my custom that I release one prisoner to you at the feast. Which would you prefer? Barabbas, or Jesus, who is called the Christ? Which of the two do you want me to release to you? ”

Barabbas is stunned. It is between him and this Jesus who will live and who will die a horrendous death this day. He can’t breathe.

“We want Barabbas!” the crowd erupts. Barabbas can’t believe what is happening. Will he be freed? What has this man done that would make the people hate him this much?

“What shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

“Crucify him!” the crowd turns unreasonable. The governor has just referred to this Man as their Messiah, making Him their Savior. They become angry and unruly

“What has he done to be deserving of death?” Pilate wants nothing to do with this.

“CRUCIFY HIM!” the mob is getting out of hand.

Pilate signals the guard. “You have been freed. You will not pay for the crime you committed.” The guard removes Barabbas’ chains and shoves him away, glowering down at him.

He puts them on the other Man. His hands and feet never felt so light. He chances a glance at the other Man. Expecting anger and hatred, their eyes meet. They hold. Barabbas looks away. Who is this Man?

He sees no anger. He sees no hate. It was the look of his father when he had been hurt as a child, compassion and kindness.

The soldiers lead Jesus away. The mob follows. Barabbas can’t move. Twenty minutes before he had no hope. He was a murderer on death row. Now he is free, acquitted of his offense.

He follows behind numbly, not knowing where else to go. He witnesses a beating more brutal than he had received. Thirty-nine blows with a cat-of-nine-tales. The Romans are cruel in their torture. Jesus utters not a word. Barabbas thinks of his own beating and the string of profanities that he had used.

The solders mock Him and spit on Him. They take a crown made of twisted thorns the length of a finger and press it onto His head. “Hail! The King of the Jews!”

They strap the cross to Jesus’ back. He can barely stand. They find another man to carry the cross. Jesus comes behind, barely walking. Each time He stumbles results in cruel lashes from a Roman whip.

Barabbas continues to follow as they climb the street to the Place of the Skull. It is a Roman death field. With every step, he is reminded that he should be the one carrying the cross.

He tries to find out Jesus’ crime but no one seems to know. Some say one thing and some another. He begins to piece together what he knows. Jesus is a Jewish carpenter and teacher. He is called a Nazarene. He is hated by the Jewish leaders for the things he taught.

Finally a man tells him that the Jewish leaders want Him dead because of His teachings and what they called blasphemy. This makes sense. The Jewish leaders aren’t known for their straight ways of dealing with people they don’t like.

He comes on the hill a little late. The crosses already stand, three of them. Jesus is in the middle with a criminal on either side. Barabbas knows these men.

“If you are the Son of God, come down off the cross.” The men at the cross continue to scoff at him.

Barabbas hears Jesus say, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

The soldiers put a sign above Jesus’ head that says, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” The priests and elders of the Jews mock Him even further. “He saved others but He cannot save Himself. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let God deliver Him if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’.”

Barabbas’ stomach turns. He can stand it no longer. He turns to leave the gruesome scene.

As he turns, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God! Why have You forsaken Me?”  The cry holds such anguish that Barabbas turns one last time to look in His eyes. Then he turns and runs. He runs until he can’t run anymore. He collapses on the side of the street. He sobs. He has not cried in many years. But he can’t help it.

He was to have been executed. And now Jesus hangs in his place. Why? It isn’t right. He is deserving of death and has been released. Jesus is no more than an innocent teacher and carpenter. Or is He? The people called Him the Son of God.

Barabbas picks himself off the ground. The sky is getting dark. He isn’t far from his home. He turns down the alley that leads to his door. He opens it and enters, closing the door behind him. Closing the door forever on Barabbas the murderer and standing as Barabbas, the acquitted.

Adapted from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.