Forgive like Jesus

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

Be patient

Proverbs 15:18 NIV

In the book of Proverbs, we’re often advised to be patient, or slow to get angry (take a look at Proverbs 14:29; 15:18; 16:32). That doesn’t mean that being angry is always wrong. There are only a few times in Scripture when Jesus showed anger. He got angry with the money changers and merchants in the temple, who weren’t charging fair prices and were treating the holy place as a market. (You can read about this in Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18 and John 2:13-22.) He was also angry with the Pharisees in Mark 3:4-5 when they wouldn’t answer His question about whether it was right to heal someone on the Sabbath. Jesus got angry with unfairness, corruption, and hypocrisy, especially when those involved should have known better. But He never became angry about what someone did to Him, and never retaliated or lashed out at people who wronged Him. Even as His executioners nailed Him to the cross, He prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34 NLT).

We should follow His example. Proverbs 15:1 says: ‘A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare’ (NLT). During an argument, what usually happens is the people involved tend to match their tones of voice, so when one shouts, the other shouts back. But if someone takes a moment to check their tone, and replies to a shouted, angry comment with a calm, gentle reply, it can take some of the heat out of the situation, and avoid it becoming a furious confrontation where the people involved achieve very little beyond upsetting each other.

So let’s follow Jesus’ example, and try to be patient, calm and gentle, even when we’re dealing with angry, hurtful people.

1 Sam 27-31; John 1:43-51; Ps 23; Prov 23:4-5

“Be slow to anger”

Proverbs 15:18 NKJV

Solomon repeatedly advises us to be “slow to anger” (Proverbs 14:29; 15:18; 16:32). Take your Bible and read those Scriptures slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully. Pay close attention to the occasions in Scripture when Jesus got angry (which are few), and something will immediately jump out at you. He never became angry over what someone did to Him. He never retaliated or lashed out at people who wronged Him. Even as His executioners nailed Him to the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 KJV). Pretty amazing, right?

So if you’re serious about following Jesus, you must learn to follow suit! The Bible says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NKJV).

Have you ever noticed how professional firefighters almost never fight fire with fire? Most times water is a much better tool. In the same way, a soft reply to an angry comment is like pouring the cool water of calmness on the fire of a hot temper.

A Kenyon college speech research unit confirmed through a series of experiments that when people are yelled at, they almost always yell back. The research also proved that you can control another person’s tone of voice, depending on the tone you adopt. If you keep your voice soft, not only will you avoid becoming angry, but most likely you will prevent the other person from getting upset too.

Do you want to be more Christlike and more successful in dealing with others? Then the word for you today is – “Be slow to anger.”

Soul food: 1 Sam 27-31; John 1:43-51; Ps 23; Prov 23:4-5

What to expect on life’s journey (3)

Galatians 5:7 NKJV

You must take responsibility for your life instead of blaming others. In the Garden of Eden when God asked Adam why he had eaten from the tree, he blamed his wife: “‘The woman whom You gave…me…gave me of the tree, and I ate'” (Genesis 3:12 NKJV). Then we read, “The Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me'” (v. 13 NKJV). Eve blamed the Devil.

So did God accept their excuses? No. He said to Adam: “‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and…eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it:” Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you'” (vv. 17-18 NKJV).

Then God told Eve, “‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you'” (v. 16 NKJV).

When those words were spoken, Adam and Eve were banished from Paradise.

“Since God is all-knowing,” you ask, “how come He got angry with Adam and Eve?” Because neither one would take responsibility for their actions! When you sin, God will readily forgive you (See Nehemiah 9:17). What He won’t accept, however, is obfuscating, rationalizing, justifying, excusing, and blaming. His Word says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV).

So if you want to move forward, you must take responsibility for your life!

Soul food: 1 Sam 14-15; Luke 24:36-44; Ps 51; Prov 22:12-16

Joseph’s coats (2)

Genesis 39:12 NKJV

The second coat Joseph wore was: The coat of temptation. One day Joseph was tempted by his boss’ wife. The Bible says: ‘She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house’ (v.12 NIV). Joseph was young, handsome, lonely, far from home, and facing repeated temptation at the hands of his boss’s wife. Yet he resisted her advances and said, ‘How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ (v.9 NIV). His first concern was not that he couldn’t get away with it, but that he couldn’t live with himself if he said yes. Remembering how God had loved, preserved, and blessed him stopped him from giving in to the temptation in front of him. David was a different story. After his affair with Bathsheba, he wrote these words in his prayer of Psalm 51: ‘Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight’ (v. 4 NKJV). When we sin, we’re sinning against God. He is the One observing what we’re doing. God forgave David, and He’ll forgive us too. But David’s story proves that sometimes we have to live with the consequences of our actions, and they can devastate not only us but those around us. Paul, the greatest of the apostles, acknowledged this truth: ‘I treat my body hard and make it my slave so that I myself will not be disqualified after I have preached to others’ (1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV). We have to discipline ourselves, and strengthen ourselves, so that we can stand against temptation and keep ourselves effective in God’s kingdom.

Eze 31-33; Luke 21:25-38; Ps 78:40-55; Prov 20:22-24