Perhaps we should talk more about forgiveness, after all, along with love, it’s central to the Christian faith. In the prayer that Jesus taught his followers, he said that we should pray: “Forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” This is part of a prayer that most people know, but do we really want God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others? Really??
If we’re honest we all have examples where someone or something has happened and we blame another for it, and we don’t forgive. It may be that a relationship has broken down, and of course, it’s not our fault. (It never is!)
We say at EBC that we want to grow together to become more like Jesus. Well, Jesus is the example, THE benchmark of not blaming others and forgiving. One of the very best examples of Jesus not blaming someone and totally forgiving them, started during the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples; the meal that we now call “the last supper”. Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them, and that they couldn’t follow. Peter, (formally known as Simon) is really shaken by this and responds by asking “why not?” and then stating, “I would lay down my life for you”. Jesus responds by telling Simon Peter that he would disown Jesus before the cock crowed in just a few hours time. You can read this by clicking here.
Following the meal, the group cross the Kidron Valley and go to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is arrested on fabricated charges, and taken to the high priest’s house for further interrogation. Simon Peter follows along behind, and while Jesus is being questioned inside the High Priests house; he waits outside in the courtyard. Lingering in the courtyard, we read in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, Simon Peter is challenged on two separate occasions for being one of Jesus’ followers, and both times he denies knowing him. Another hour passes and once again Simon Peter is challenged, and once again he denies knowing Jesus. This third time, Luke records, as Simon Peter is denying any knowledge of Jesus, from inside the house, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Simon Peter”. It was then that Simon Peter remembered what Jesus had predicted at the last supper. You can read ythis by clicking here.
Jesus is then taken away, appears before Pilate and Herod, and is finally condemned to death by crucifixion. Three days after his death the tomb that Jesus was buried in is found empty and his followers learn of his resurrection.
In John’s account of Jesus’ life, we read that a few weeks later, Simon Peter, two other disciples, and some friends go fishing on the Sea of Galilee. They return, having caught nothing, and find that Jesus is waiting for them on the beach. Jesus tells them to throw their net on the right side of the boat, which they do. When they finally get the net onto the beach they find that they have caught 153 large fish. Jesus invites them to have breakfast with him, and this they readily do.
When the breakfast is over, Jesus speaks directly to Simon Peter, asking him three times if he loves him, and three times Simon Peter responds that he does. Clearly Jesus has totally forgiven him, and by asking three times he deliberately cancels out Simon Peter’s three times denial in the courtyard outside of the high priests house. Peter is reinstated. You can read this by clicking here.
Jesus might have reacted to Peter’s denial by totally excluding him from the group and completely ignoring him. An approach that many people take rather than forgive. Jesus might have waited until all of the disciples were together and then demonstrated his anger and disappointment with Simon Peter by verbally attacking him and belittling him. This is a response that many take in similar situations. Of course, what he did do was to let it go, and completely forgive him.
Jesus knew that when Simon Peter denied knowing him outside of the high priests house, he wasn’t being wicked, he was being was weak. This is a very important distinction that we need to understand when we are faced with forgiving someone. In almost every case, people aren’t being deliberately wicked, but they are being weak. And the truth is, that everyone of us has the potential to be weak if the circumstances are right (or wrong!)
You have to understand that the choice is yours as to how you deal with blame and forgiveness. You can keep the blame and the unforgiveness locked inside of you. And if you do, like a seed it will grow and damage you, not the perpetrator. In fact, taking this approach is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die! They are getting on with their life and not even thinking about you, but you are allowing them to control you. So, you can choose to do that and many do. Or you can choose to do what Jesus did and let it go.
We are all guilty, we all fail to meet God’s moral standard. However, because Jesus died on the cross and paid for our failure, if we accept him and sincerely acknowledge him as our savior, we can be forgiven and receive mercy, by God’s grace. However, we can’t receive it and refuse to give it. How can we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who have sinned against us”? And not mean it? If we do that, then we are hypocrites. And Jesus harshest words were for those whom he called “play actors”, hypocrites.
When it comes to blaming others and forgiveness, we have to let it go! Not partial forgiveness but total forgiveness: It is the only way, it is Jesus’ way.