Friday, June 20, 2014
"Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
How in the world did Jesus pray this prayer? Some commentators actually believe that he prayed this prayer while the nails were being driven through His hands. How is this possible I ask myself? He is God so I know it was possible and did in fact happen. I guess the question I really need to ask is, "How can I become like this?" or "How can I handle situations with such compassion and grace?"
I know the immediate answer is to live in the Spirit, to abide in Him, spending time with Him in prayer and in His word, but it cannot stop there for me. I need "directions" to this type of forgiveness; I need practical every day ways to apply this "Father forgive them" attitude.
I begged God for just that this morning and He give some insight. First, He took me back to Lamentations 3. A passage He seems to, as of late, take me back to quite often. Verses 22 and 23 say, "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin new every morning." Well, first of all, Praise the Lord this is the God I serve. I would drown in my sin otherwise. But, the application for me from this verse is, if this is the way my God treats me and I know how much I sin, I must be willing to start every day with my mercies new for the people who have hurt me. I must be willing to love faithfully despite how I feel. So, I pray this prayer: "God help me to have new mercies today for _____ just as you have them for me this morning. Help me to love faithfully just as you continue to love me faithfully in spite of my shortcomings."
This prayer pretty much shuts me up. It simply gives perspective, the right perspective. It reminds me of another truth: "But if you do not forgive others sins, your heavenly father will not forgive you." Matthew 6:15 And another truth found in Matthew 5, "But I tell you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." On a side note, I love this passage because it says, love, bless and do good to your enemies but it seems to draw the line with associating with those despitefully use you. It's almost as if it's saying, do all of those good things to people who are your enemies but please, be smart and keep distance while you pray for those who are going to go as far as to despitefully use you.
Barnes makes three really great practical application points about this passage and forgiveness. First off, He says that we can learn from this prayer, "The duty of praying for our enemies even when they are endeavoring most to injure us." I gleam from this, I have to discipline myself to pray. Even if I have no idea what to say, just falling on my knees and asking God to help me and give me the words to say is enough.
The second practical application Barnes makes is that "we should pray that God would give our enemies better minds." I see this as saying, it's ok to ask God to reveal to them our point of view but in doing so we better be ready for God to ask us to some call to action, such as godly confrontation. The third practical application Barnes makes is the thought that "no other religion teaches us to forgive enemies or gives us the power to do so." I absolutely love this thought; it is so practical. I mean think of all of the scriptures that coincide with this point: God gives us His mind, 1 Cor 2:16. He gives us power through the renewing of our minds, Romans 12:2. I can do everything through Christ who gives you strength, Philippians 4:13. Only through my relationship with Christ, Him living through me am I given the power to forgive and to live in forgiveness instead of bitterness or resentment.
I am called to love, I am called to forgive, not when I feel like it but constantly. And I don't know about you, but this is a hard pill to swallow a lot of days until I sit back and think about all of the forgiveness I in turn have received.