Wednesday, October 17

Forgiveness frees!

Scripture: Job 1-2, Acts 6-7

Acts 7:60 He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” And after saying this, he died.

Observation/application

The story of Stephen’s selection, sermon and martyrdom in Acts 6-7 ends with Stephen imitating Jesus and forgiving those who killed him—including “a young man named Saul” who “agreed with putting him to death” (8:1).  

Years ago, I heard David DuPlessis tell a fascinating story.  He was flying somewhere, and asked God to give him a seat alone, so he could rest and pray.  Just before takeoff, a gentleman sat down next to him.  He prayed, “God, I’m your servant, couldn’t you give me a break?”  Just after takeoff, the gentleman lit up.  (This was in the days when smoking was still permitted on flights—barbaric!)  

Now David prayed, “Lord it was bad enough I couldn’t be alone, but now he’s smoking too!”  Frustrated and angry, David turned his head to the window, and tried to go to sleep.  But he was so angry he couldn’t.  He felt like the Lord spoke to him, “Do you want to go to sleep?  Forgive the man for smoking.”  Reluctantly, David agreed, forgave him (just between him and God–he didn’t turn to the man and say, “I forgive you for smoking”–that generally doesn’t go over well), and soon fell asleep.  

When he woke up, dinner was being served.  David and his seat-mate had a nice talk through dinner. When the stewardess picked up the dinner trays, David thought, “Here it comes; they always light up after dinner.”  But he didn’t; in fact, he didn’t smoke the rest of the flight.  

The Lord began to speak to David again.  “When you forgave the man, you not only set yourself free from the anger and bitterness, you set him free to change.”  Intrigued, David asked the Lord for some Biblical examples.  The Lord reminded him of Jesus dying on the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”  Christ’s forgiveness freed us to change.  And Stephen’s prayer of forgiveness as they stoned him, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  A young man named Saul was there, consenting to his death.  But Stephen forgave him, and the young man Saul became Paul the apostle.  

I believe that forgiveness frees people.  Most importantly, it frees the offended from having to carry the offense, from bitterness and anger and hurt.  And it frees the offender from having to “be the offense.”  He is no longer shackled by you to that sin—he is free to change.  That change isn’t automatic, but it’s possible because you refuse to keep them locked in their offense.

Today, I will forgive those who offend me, knowing that it will free me and them. 

Prayer: Lord, I choose to forgive.  Even if it never changes my offender (and I know it might), I know that it will change me.  So I forgive.