Forgiveness of injuries
"Father, forgive them — for they know not what they do!'' (Luke 23:34)
Many a death-struggle has been made — to save a friend. A dying Savior gathers up His expiring breath — to plead for His foes! At the climax of His own woe, and of human ingratitude — forsaken by man, and deserted by God — His faltering voice mingles with the shout of His murderers — "Father, forgive them — for they know not what they do!"
Had the faithless Peter been there, could he have wondered at the reply to a former question — "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him — until seven times?" Jesus said unto him, "I say not unto you, until seven times; but, until seventy times seven," (Matthew 18:21, 22).
Superiority to insult and disgrace, with some, proceeds from a callous and indifferent temperament — a cold, phlegmatic, stoical insensibility, alike to kindness or unkindness. It was not so with Jesus. The tender sensibilities of His holy nature rendered Him keenly sensitive to ingratitude and injury, whether this was manifested in the malice of undisguised enmity, or the treachery of trusted friendship. Perhaps to a noble nature — the latter of these is the more deeply wounding. Many are inclined to forgive an open and unmasked antagonist, who are not so willing to forget or forgive heartless faithlessness, or unrequited love.
But see, too, in this respect, the conduct of the blessed Redeemer! Mark how He deals with His own disciples who had basely forsaken Him and fled, and that, too, in the hour He most needed their sympathy! No sooner does He rise from the dead than He hastens to disarm their fears and to assure them of an unaltered and unalterable affection. "Go tell my brethren," is the first message He sends; "Peace be unto you," is the salutation at the first meeting; "Children!" is the word with which He first greets them on the shores of Tiberias.
Even Joseph, (the Old Testament type and pattern of generous forgiveness,) when he makes himself known to his brethren, recalls the bitter thought, "I am Joseph your brother — whom you sold into Egypt." The true Joseph, when He reveals Himself to His disciples, buries in oblivion the memory of bygone faithlessness. He meets them with a benediction. He leaves them at His ascension with the same — "He lifted up His hands and blessed them!"
"Father, forgive them!" Reader! Follow in all this, the spirit of your Lord and Master. In rising from the study of His holy example, seek to feel that with you there should be no such name, no such word, as enemy! Harbor no resentful thought, indulge in no bitter recrimination. Surrender yourself to no sullen fretfulness. Let "the law of kindness" be always in your heart. Put the best construction on the failings of others. Make no injurious comments on their frailties; no uncharitable insinuations.
When disposed at any time to cherish an unforgiving spirit towards a brother, think — if your God had retained His anger forever, where would you have been? If He, the Infinite One, who might have spurned you forever from His presence, has had patience with you, and forgiven you all — will you, on account of some petty grievance which your calmer moments would pronounce unworthy of a thought, indulge in the look of cold estrangement, the unrelenting word, or unforgiving deed?
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).
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