Father, Forgive them …
What is forgiveness? Let us look at what Jesus said when he was on the cross. The first words were “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The Lord Jesus did not hold that sin against them when they nailed him on the cross. He remembered his own teaching in the sermon of the mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God“ (Matt 5:9). Do we not know that the peacemakers are those who do not hold hard words, quarrels or hate? So we can say that the Lord Christ was truly the Son of God.
What about Stephen? “Then he (Stephen) fell on his knees and cried out, Lord do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Do we do this if one of our brothers sins against us? Brothers, we must be peacemakers in order for us to be called sons of God.
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry his disciples asked him “‘Lord, teach us how to pray’. He gave them these words, ‘Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors’” (Matt 6:12). This means that, as brothers, we must not hold a sin against another brother. How can we read the Bible or pray to God while we have a ‘log’ in the heart (Mark 11:25). What does the word ‘peacemaker’ mean? The Bible says that we must not hold a sin against anyone. The peacemakers shall be called the sons of God. How do sons of God behave? They bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances they may have against another. They read and understand that the Father forgives them if they forgive (Col 3:13), and, “Be holy as I am holy” (Lev. 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16). If we are in the likeness of God, we must be kind and compassionate to one another. We know that God is full of mercy and grace. God’s grace is unlimited and does not end. Who are you if you do not forgive? Are you a son of God or a son of the flesh? Let us remember that Peter went to Jesus and asked him, “‘How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?’ Jesus said ‘Not seven times but seventy times seven’” (Matt 18:22). When he said this, what Jesus meant was that we must forgive our brother as many times as he needs.
We must remember that we must be holy, so if we hold a sin against another it means that we have been overcome by evil (Rom 12:21). Evil is bad; we must not be like king Saul. He was rejected by God and the spirit left him. If we hold a sin against another. God will leave us and we will remain with the bad spirit mind like that of Saul. Do we know that Saul remained king even after God’s spirit left him? We may remain brothers and sisters but the spirit mind can have left us.
God searches the heart (Jer 17:10: Ps 7:9). When we sing hymn 268 we sing these words: “Can it be a question whether brethren should from conflict cease?” Does conflict cease when it arises in our ecclesia? Do we help everyone with hope and the joy of forgiveness? We should know and understand Jesus’ words, “Love one another as yourself”. We must think how much our Father has forgiven and does forgive. God has forgiven people in past ages such as David and Hezekiah. He also forgives today and will do so in the future. Who are we if we do not esteem our brothers better than ourselves? How can we say that we love God and His Son if we do not love our brothers?
Some last words are these: Grudge not, judge not, complain not, condemn not (James 5:9). Let us look very carefully at these words, and consider what God and Jesus tell us about love, forgiving, being peacemakers and being holy. If we remember these things and do them, we shall be like both God and His Son.
Bro Dzingai Sumburera (Chivi, Zimbabwe)