Father Forgive Them!
Late on Thursday 5, 2013, just a few minutes after his death, I heard over the BBC that Nelson “Madiba” Mandela died peacefully in his home after a fairly long illness. The man fought almost all his life for what he believed. It was even said that he fought till his last breath.
Of all his accomplishments, the one thing that made him to stand heads and shoulders above all other modern leaders of our generation was what he did after 27 years of apartheid imprisonment. He declared, “Forgiveness and reconciliation”.
It was unexpected and possibly undeserved. His own blood brothers initially thought he had sold out to his sworn enemies. He was a broken man –not by tormentors – but by a spiritual encounter.
After Mandela was released from his imprisonment, he once again remembered the importance of internal regeneration ahead of external revolution. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
Once outside, he preached “Forgiveness”. This is an attribute of God Almighty many have failed to recognize and it arrested his sworn enemies and turned them around.
Now, could it be said that Nelson Mandela was a born-again Christian?
I will not judge that, it is not mine to judge because Christ is the Judge of all mankind. Besides, I never lived with him nor knew him personally. But as John Lofton commented on FB, amongst many similar, “If Mandela was a Christian he would NEVER have been, as he was, pro-abortion-on-demand and pro-homosexual”. In other words, he had the ideals of a Marxist.
Anyway, that noble ideology of forgiveness by Mandela was not invented by Him as the softener of stony hearts, but by God.
This is a two-part article, it is quite important to read and KNOW the principles in the two, otherwise, you will live in ignorance.
Remember Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, who dreamed dreams of grandeur that he would one day rule the world? His brothers grew jealous of him and his dreams; sold him into slavery and lied to their ageing father that he had been killed in the wilderness.
Genesis 37:19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
Genesis 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
In the end, they voted to sell him off as a slave instead of shedding his blood. They sold him to Ishmeelites.
After all the terrible hardship of being traded as a slave, being wrongfully accused and imprisoned, through an act of God, he became the Prime Minister of Egypt, the then world power. His brothers, who committed the atrocities against him, unwittingly became his subjects. Then they did something.
vs 15 And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.
vs 16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
vs 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.
vs 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
They finally fulfilled God’s Word. But it wasn’t the end of the story. They still had this bridge of Joseph to cross. All Joseph had to do was issue a command and they were either imprisoned or killed.
They were expecting retribution and begging for their lives and their families to be spared, but Joseph’s answer was far much more gracious than their plea.
“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” [Genesis 50:19-21]
They were forgiven! The past was nullified. His pain and sorrow were left behind in the prison when he stepped out of the place. He was a type of Christ.
God had used Joseph to portray what He could do with a life fully yielded to Him. Is your life fully yielded to God? Can He rely on you to forgive those who did evil against you?
Jesus Christ came into the world with one purpose – to win Man back to God. What did Man do to Him? We mistreated Him, blasphemed Him, accused Him of having a demon, called Him a false prophet, betrayed Him, tried Him in our courts, unjustly found Him guilty and ultimately hung Him on a tree to die.
What did He have to say about these?
Father Forgive Them
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” [Luke 23:34]
Many people who have read those lines in the Bible thought it was just a fluke or a passing word with no substance. Jesus meant every word in the prayer and God heard and did all Jesus requested.
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” [John 14:13-14]
Without any shadow of doubt, the Father ALWAYS answer the Son – everything He asked was done. Even when He prayed, “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” [Luke 22:42] If He had not quickly added that latter phrase, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”, He would have escaped the death penalty.
God gave us commandments to obey and NONE of His commandments is grievous (1 John 5:3). There is NONE of what God asked us to do that He has not done. The greatest of His commandments is that we sacrifice our lives for Him. He has sacrificed His and we all know it.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” [John 15:13]
Do you want to sacrifice your life for a cause you believe in, give your life for an ideal? Brilliant. But there is this matter of unforgiveness that could easily make sacrificing your life a worthless deed.
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” [Mark 11:25-26]
Forgiveness is a virtuous attribute of God that is often overlooked. In fact, it is the one major area where most believers are failing. Often, you hear them saying, “I forgive, but I won’t forget” “I forgive, but I don’t want to see him/her again” “I forgive, but go your way and I will go mine” and so many of such conditional phrases.
Is there genuine forgiveness in any of these phrases? No. With God, 99.99% is still a failure. It is imperfect. God expects perfection. This is simply because He knows you can attain it through behaving like Him.
It is the lack of this virtue that has destroyed many homes, torn families and friends apart. It is the lack of this beautiful trait that has led to ethnic, racial and international wars. For a moment, close your eyes and imagine a world full of forgiveness. What serenity and harmony that would reign!
This is what the kingdom of heaven is going to be like, friends. No one should withhold forgiveness from another. The desire or the ability to withhold forgiveness from another is the same as portraying yourself as God. God is the only One who can decide whether to forgive or not, but withholding forgiveness from another person is making yourself equal to God.
This was why Jesus said, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” [Mark 11:26] God is only One who has the right and ability to withhold forgiveness!
You must remember that God is capable of all things except tell a single lie, He just can’t do it. It is impossible for God to lie. If this was the case, then Jesus’ words are very true: “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” [Mark 11:26]
Your true justification, being righteous before God, hinges on you forgiving others just as He has promised to forgive you – no matter what.
When you withhold forgiveness from another, you are simply trying to say you are better than others and without your own sin.
One of the traits of a son of God is the ability to forgive. If you are incapable of forgiveness, I doubt your true identity as a child of God. Why? You aim to live in the same quarters as the God who says He will not forgive you if you refuse to forgive another?
When God forgives, it is not conditional on the basis of the weight or dimension of the sin. He doesn’t forgive and adds, “BUT”. He wipes the slate clean, nothing remains!
Forgive and Forget
Yes. You need to forgive and completely wipe the slate of your offenders clean. Forget completely? Yes. Learn the lessons the episode affords and move on.
But, I must agree that events sometimes make it so hard to forgive. For such, you need to ask God to give you the grace.
There was the case of this family with a young girl, Maria (not real name). Maria was in her teen and she had been an obedient child all her life until one day, she decided to go out like the other girls in her school. She met this young man, Andy (not real name) and they started dating and soon they got involved with sexual pleasure.
The pleasure resulted in pregnancy. They became terrified. Maria, the “good” girl could not bear the thoughts of facing her parents with her shame. So, they hacked a plan – abortion. Andy’s friend, Peter (not real name) helped them with the process.
The abortion failed and Maria died in the process. A terrible situation got worse. Andy and Peter dug further into the hole of iniquity. They took the corpse and buried it in a remote place.
The parents of Maria searched and searched, but their daughter was never coming back home.
About four years later, Andy accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Then the Spirit of the Lord began to speak to him of the need for restitution. He must go to the Maria’s parents and confess of his terrible sin. After an endless battle within his soul, he went to tell his local pastor. They prayed and together went to Maria’s parents.
Andy laid prostrate, as their African culture suggests of someone showing utmost penitence, and reported of his evil.
Maria’s father, Dan (not real name) stood up, enraged and quietly went into his bedroom, without a word. Now, in their culture when someone behaves like that, it is a sign of danger. Usually, such people will go and get a machete and hack people to death and face the consequence later.
So, Andy and his accompanying pastor were expecting the worst when Dan emerged from the bedroom. There was an unusual serenity and peace about him, the rage was absent and there was no machete in his hands. Then he uttered one statement.
“I forgive you, on one condition, you will become like a son to me,” Dan declared.
Everyone in the room was shocked.
Apparently, Dan was a born again Christian and when he entered his bedroom, he simply went to grieve in the Presence of the Almighty, his own Father and asked for counsel. And God told him to forgive the young man as He forgave him, too. And to also embrace Andy as He embraced him. Dan did just that.
Friends that is the true mark of a forgiven heart; A heart that would readily forgive the offense of others would always know the forgiveness of the Almighty God.
Forgive Others – Forgive Yourself
Jesus forgave all the people who betrayed and crucified Him and this was seen in the prayer He prayed. God forgave every one of them – including Judas!
I believe Judas did not commit suicide because he didn’t receive forgiveness from Jesus Christ. In fact, most probably, he was there when Jesus resurrected and showed Himself to His disciple because it was said that when He appeared to them in the shut room, it was only Thomas who was absent.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.” [John 20:24]
In addition, Peter thought that it was John the Beloved who betrayed Him, “Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? [John 21:20]
So, they did not know because Judas was still going in and out with them. Yet, we see that he later committed suicide, most probably because he could not forgive himself.
Forgive and be a true son of the Living God.
I must say, however, there is another side to this subject of forgiving and forgetting. The lack of knowledge necessary for balance by the believer is what the devil has used in taking so much advantage of the children of God. Love, Forgive, Forget, BUT ……
I will be tackling this part in the next article. ….“IF HE REPENTS”. Don’t miss it!