1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
Forgiveness hurts. Why? Because you are taking the pain of being wronged onto your own shoulders, releasing that burden from the person who rightfully deserves it.
Jesus said love your enemies, pray for them and bless them. YOUR ENEMIES. Ever done that? It hurts! And if it doesn’t, then most likely you were only mouthing some hollow words. Loving someone who has only hated you, hurts. Praying for someone who is tormenting you, hurts. Blessing someone who only seeks to make life miserable for you, hurts.
Have you ever thought about how absurd the Lord’s command is? Absurd from the worlds viewpoint; absurd apart from God. Think about it. Someone hates you, hurts you, betrays you, steals from you, disparages you and mistreats you… .and what does Jesus say about that?
Enemies… Pray for them. Love them. Bless them.
Are you kidding me?
Seems unfair doesn’t it? We not only get to be hurt by our enemy, we get to have a double dose of difficulty when it comes time to love and bless them… regardless of their response or whether or not they have asked for forgiveness. Why would Jesus ask us to do this?
Whenever I contemplate something from God that seems “backward”, I can immediately assume a few things based solely on what I know of God’s character:
- He has our best interest at heart because God is love
- It is the perfect requirement because God is perfection
- I will be happy about it eventually because He makes all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose
- It will bring me emotional and spiritual peace because God gives peace that is beyond my understanding
- I don’t have to worry about my enemy “getting away” with evil because the Supreme Judge of the Universe will right all wrongs and punish all wrongdoing
We can start with those assumptions simply because they reflect the character of God. Beyond those things, can we see any benefit from loving our enemies, praying for them and blessing them? Or is it just some exercise in self-sacrifice and suffering? What happens for us personally when we forgive (love/pray/bless) our enemies, those who mistreat us, misuse us, abuse us, lie about us and seek to inflict harm on us? Let’s take a look….
Forgiveness points to Christ
First, and foremost, when we forgive our enemies, Christ is glorified. We point people to Him. They see our actions and wonder how we can possibly respond to hate with love. Does this mean that our enemies are going to see us, then immediately be convicted and see the error of their ways? No. Our forgiveness may have no effect on them at all. It might even enrage them. But that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is proclaimed through the very Christ-like act of forgiving our enemies.
As well, you just never know who is watching. Friends, family, your children, co-workers… any number of people may be redirected towards the Savior by seeing or hearing about an act of true forgiveness. A forgiving heart points to the Lord who can change hearts.
Forgiveness heals us
Forgiveness heals our own heart from the sickness of anger, bitterness and emotional stress. ***News flash*** Unforgiveness in our heart only hurts us. It does NOT inflict the revenge on our enemy that we so long for. Most likely, they could care less, don’t think about it, and have not even the slightest care that you are twisted up over what they did. In fact, many of your enemies would just get an extra dose of satisfaction if they knew you were bent out of shape in your bitterness towards them.
Forgiving our enemies allows us to move on with our with our lives. You can bet they are moving on with theirs, no matter what we do.
Forgiveness opens the door to restoration
Loving your enemy keeps the door open for reconciliation, no matter how remote the chance may be. Hating them and seeking revenge kills that opportunity completely. No matter what we may do to each other here on this earth, the fact is we are all going to end up one of two places: heaven or hell. How magnificent would it be if one of your enemies, through your example of forgiveness, ended up in heaven with you because you chose to love when hate was deserved? (no Arminian or Calvinist emails, please; just take it in the context I’m trying to communicate) Do you think that relationship would enjoy an extra touch of sweetness throughout all eternity?
Our beloved Apostle Paul is a great example of potential reconciliation. He murdered and imprisoned Christians with great zeal. And yet, the friends and families of those he murdered left the door of forgiven open after his conversion to Christ. I’m sure there were some who claimed to be Christians who would not forgive Paul; a shame when you consider that God forgave them, but they couldn’t forgive a fellow human being. It’s no different for us today.
Forgive your enemies; bless them; pray for them…. the door of reconciliation and restoration will be wide open. Who knows when someone will step through it.
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Well, there’s certainly many more benefits that I could write about. Forgiveness is a very extensive topic. It is the foundation of our relationship with God. He forgives us of our sin giving us a hope of eternal life instead of an eternity separated from our Creator. Forgiveness was the need that Jesus died for. There could be no forgiveness for us without His shed blood.
God created man. Man sinned. Forgiveness would be the only way man could be reconciled to God. So God did what it took to make forgiveness possible. Think about that the next time you are tempted to withhold forgiveness from another person… even your enemies.
Lord, Help us to be a forgiving people. When we are tempted to withhold forgiveness from others, help us to remember that You forgave us much more than we will ever have to forgive another. Help us to draw others to Jesus by loving our enemies, praying for those who mistreat us and blessing those who curse us. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you find it hard to extend forgiveness? Have you seriously contemplated all that God has forgiven you for? Are others drawn to Christ, or repelled from Him when they observe how you respond to your enemies? Are there enemies in your life that see no “door” of reconciliation with you because you have shut them?
Application: Forgiveness is the foundation of our restoration with God. It should be the foundation of our relationship with others. If God extends forgiveness to us, despite our continued sinning and failures, how much more should we extend forgiveness and love to those who hurt us? In the long run, our enemies are NOT really all that hurt by our unforgiveness (we are) and we only stand to benefit (in many ways) by offering blessing, prayer and forgiveness to all.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?