Pastor Dr. Jonathan Barker

(336) 352-3781

1053 Blevins Store Rd, Mt Airy, NC 27030, USA

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Forgiveness

November 12, 2019

 

“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60)

 

In chapter seven of Acts, Stephen is being stoned to death for simply proclaiming the name of Christ. As I was reading through this passage of Scripture, verse 60 really caught my attention. Stephen, despite being attacked and mistreated by those around him, finds a way to forgive those who are doing him wrong. While Stephen was dying he wasn’t thinking about his pain, the unfairness of the situation, or his feelings. Instead he was mercifully praying for the very ones who were doing him wrong, and he was asking that God would not remember the cruel actions of those who were killing him. What a powerful example of forgiveness. One of the hardest, yet most powerful things that we will ever learn to do is forgive others. I want to look at three simple things about forgiveness.

 

1. The Expectation of Forgiveness

 

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your tespasses.” (Mark 11:25)

 

Forgiveness is not a subject for debate. Forgiveness is a subject of duty. If we expect God to hear us and forgive us when we have done wrong, then we MUST learn to forgive others. The Bible says, “And when you stand praying, forgive.” Notice that God did not ask us to forgive or give the option of forgiveness. Instead, He commanded us to forgive. Forgiveness is not an optional part of the Christian life, rather it is a fundamental part of what it means to be a Christian.

 

2. The Example of Forgiveness 

 

“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60)

 

It is important to understand the difficulty of forgiveness given in this situation. Stephen wasn’t simply forgiving his best friend, or someone who had hurt his feelings. He was forgiving vile and wicked people who were enemies to him and enemies to God. These people were murderers who hated Stephen and everything he stood for. This kind of forgiveness often seems nearly impossible. So how was Stephen able to so freely forgive these people? It was because of his example. 

 

While Jesus was suffering persecution, indescribable pain, torture, and humiliation while hanging on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of the very people who sent him to the cross and caused him such pain, and, in doing so, He set an unrivaled example of forgiveness.

 

If Stephen, while being stoned to death, and Jesus, while being crucified on a cross for the sins of the world, can both pray to their heavenly Father for the forgiveness of their biggest enemies, there is no excuse for us not to be forgiving of those who do us wrong. 

 

3. The Effect of Forgiveness

 

“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

 

Have you ever felt like you were carrying a huge load while around someone that you held a grudge against? The reason we sometimes feel this way is because of the unforgiveness in our lives. The Bible says that after Stephen forgave those who were murdering him, he fell asleep. You see, there is rest that comes in learning to forgive. Once we learn and practice forgiveness in our lives, the heavy load we were once carrying no longer rests on our chest. We are free from carrying the burden of unforgiveness that makes our daily walk more difficult. 

 

While you have been reading this, there may have been someone that came into your mind, and you’re wondering how you will ever be able to forgive them for what they’ve done to you. Well, my friend, if Christ forgave us, and if Stephen could forgive those that were stoning him, then we can learn how to forgive.

 

“The most important thing that I learned in growing up is that forgiveness is something that, when you do it, you free yourself to move one.”

-Tyler Perry

 

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