Luke 6:35 NLT
In his book Beneath the Cross of Jesus, A. Leonard Griffith tells the story of a young Korean exchange student who was a leader in Christian circles at the University of Pennsylvania. He left his apartment on the evening of April 25, 1958, to mail a letter to his parents. As he turned from the mailbox, he was met by eleven leather-jacketed teenage boys. Without a word, they beat him with a blackjack, a lead pipe, their boots and fists – and left him lying dead in the gutter. The population of Philadelphia cried out for vengeance, and the district attorney announced on television that he was going to seek the death penalty.
Then the following letter arrived, signed by the boy’s parents and twenty other relatives in Korea: “Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action…In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released…We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ who died for our sins.”
This story takes forgiveness to a whole new level, doesn’t it? It also teaches that when you forgive, you relinquish the seat of the victim and sit in the seat of the victor. And that’s what Jesus has in mind for you today!
Soul food: 1 Chr 6:1-7:19; John 9:13-23; Ps 115; Prov 25:23-25
Luke 6:35 NLT
In Luke 6, Jesus gives us a command: ‘To you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you…If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!… Love your enemies! Do good to them…and you will be truly acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate’ (v.27-36 NLT).
Later, we see Jesus put this command into action in the most powerful way. As He was dying on the cross, exhausted, humiliated, and in excruciating pain, He prayed for everyone who had put Him there: ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34 NLT). In the midst of His unimaginable suffering, He stayed faithful to God’s will, loving His enemies, doing good to those who hated Him, and praying for those who had hurt Him. We need to remember His model of forgiveness and work towards being as forgiving when someone wrongs us. (We also need to remember that if someone has harmed us or put us in danger, it’s important that we seek help.)
Forgiveness is a process, and it probably won’t come naturally to us at first. How often have we held a grudge or got irritated when someone didn’t hold a door open for us, or used our favourite mug, or sat in ‘our’ place at church? Let’s start the process by meeting these minor irritations with forgiveness, and work our way towards a heart like Christ’s.
1 Chr 6:1-7:19; John 9:13-23; Ps 115; Prov 25:23-25
Luke 9:62 NIV
Whatever has happened in our past, it doesn’t automatically determine our future. Here are some things to remember to help us keep moving forwards: 1) Focus on what’s ahead. We can use what we’ve learned from our past experiences, good and bad, to help us as we move forwards. But if we keep looking back at the past, we’ll miss all the amazing things that God’s putting in our future. Our past isn’t where we’re heading; we need to stay focused on what’s ahead. 2) Stop looking for easy answers. Life is hard, and being a Christian certainly doesn’t promise us a trouble-free life. In fact, when we’re following God’s plan, the devil might try even harder to stop us. But what we are promised is a God who is bigger than any problem we’ll ever have to face, and who will not leave us to face things alone. 3) Stay on your path – not everybody will go with you. We shouldn’t let anyone hold us back from following the plan that God has for us. Following God’s path might mean leaving friends behind, but even though that’s hard, we can be sure that God’s plans are the best, and He has amazing things lined up for us if we choose to trust Him and follow His guidance. 4) Believe in yourself – God does! People might try to criticise us and put us down, but God knows our potential, and if we’re willing to trust Him and work hard, He’ll help us fulfil it. He gave each of us a specific purpose, and He doesn’t make mistakes. If He’s called us, He’ll give us everything we need to achieve that calling.
Deut 30:1-32:28; Luke 12:49-59; Ps 119:49-56; Prov 17:18-21
Luke 9:62 NIV
If you’re wise, you’ll do four things: (1) Focus on the road ahead. By looking in the rearview mirror instead of at what’s ahead, you’ll miss the next turn and end up in a ditch. Focus on the fact that you survived, and that you’ve learned from your experience. God kept you around for a reason; find it and pour your life into it. (2) Stop looking for easy answers. Visit any bookstore and you’ll find shelves lined with titles promising ten easy steps to financial achievement, five trouble-free keys to success, or twelve simple strategies for health, wealth, and fulfillment in life. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Life is hard, and deep inside we know all those simplistic approaches don’t work. But the fact that your life is difficult doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. As the old country preacher said, “If you don’t come face to face with the Devil sometimes, you must be going in the same direction he is.” (3) Stay on your path – not everybody will go with you. Some of your closest friends are people who will never change, and they don’t like those who do. Your decision to change doesn’t mean they will do the same. Nevertheless, you must be committed to growing, expanding your knowledge and experience, and moving to the next level in life. (4) Believe in yourself – God does! When someone tells you you’ll never amount to anything, smile and keep going. God alone knows your potential, and if you’re willing to trust Him and work hard, He’ll help you to fulfill it. In the final analysis, success is an argument your enemies and critics can’t refute.
Soul food: Deut 30:1-32:28; Luke 12:49-59; Ps 119:49-56; Prov 17:18-21
Philippians 3:13-14 NIVUK
The more someone has hurt us, the harder it is to forgive them. But we must choose forgiveness, because whatever we refuse to forgive and let go of, we carry with us like a weight. Sometimes we may even need to forgive ourselves for something we’ve done. Whatever our particular hurt, the solution isn’t feeding it by feeling sorry for ourselves, or denying it by pretending it never happened. We have to face the hurt, then forgive and let it go, or we’ll continue to hurt ourselves. Someone once said that choosing not to forgive somebody is like eating poison and expecting the other person to die. In order to move forward, we have to let go and be at peace with the past. Paul put many Christians to death before he met Christ. He could easily have allowed that memory to destroy him and rob him of his destiny. But he refused to let it. Instead he wrote: ‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:13-14 NIVUK). Paul hadn’t forgotten his past, but knowing that God had forgiven him, he wasn’t going to let his past hold him back. Mark 11:25 says: ‘If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins’ (NIV). Starting today, choose forgiveness.
Deut 28-29; Luke 12:35-48; Ps 119:41-48; Prov 17:17