So, I heard this bizarre sound coming from the horn speakers of a Pentecostal Church. I heard a disturbing prayer point been raised by whom I later realized to be their General Overseer and he shouted like an angry war lord
“Jesus asked us to pray for our enemies but he didn’t give us prayer point! So today, we must pray that our enemies somersault and die by fire!”
Hmm, it disturbed my spirit because that wrong idea and teaching has crept into virtually all the Christian denominations in Africa and beyond. It is not biblical, it is heresy to say that Jesus didn’t give us prayer points in terms of praying for our enemies. Even Paul never endorsed the idea of hating our enemies! Paul was once an enemy of the Church, the Church did not pray that he fall and die and later Paul became instrumental! That same Paul said in his letter to the Romans
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”– Romans 12:20
Many have misinterpreted the meaning of “heaping burning coals…” The message Bible explains it better, it reads thus
If you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Today, we will be looking at forgiveness and the truth behind it.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.– Matthew 6:14-15
Why did Jesus demand that you forgive others their sins against you even when they are not sorry? The above verse was a statement Jesus made before He died on the cross on the account of our sins; God has already forgiven our sins and therefore it would mean today “forgive others as God has forgiven you.” Jesus never demanded that we forgive others their sins simply because God has forgiven us! It is because He paid for their sins just as He paid for your own sins. It wasn’t only your sins that led Jesus to the cross, their past, present and future sins were paid for too! Even before you forgive people their sins God has forgiven them their sins! It is a grave sin against God not to forgive people of their sins against you. When we forgive people their wrongs, we are also acknowledging God’s forgiveness on them and on us.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25)
Unlike we always think, people don’t need to apologize for their sins before you forgive. Yes, they must need to show remorse before you can give them another chance in your life but even before they apologize, your heart should be at peace with them. When people apologize forgive them, when they don’t, forgive them still! It takes a lot of maturity to do that but that is exactly what God requires of us.
That further proves how wrong it is to take vengeance for something done against you. When you take vengeance, you are simply trying to tell God that the death of Jesus isn’t enough and that the price has not been paid in full! When people sin against you, they sin against God! When you sin against God, you sin against people. So, if God forgave you your sins and you believed that Jesus paid the full price for your sins then you must also believe that He paid the price for the sins of your enemies… including those sins of people that may affect you.
You must learn to love people just as God has loved you, you must learn to handle people’s mistakes with love just as God handled yours. You need to understand this hard truth! You and your antagonists have a common enemy. The witch-doctor that is tormenting you and yourself have a common enemy! That common enemy is the devil! You conquered the enemy through Christ and the enemy conquered your antagonists through ignorance.
You see, if you don’t forgive people their wrong, you aren’t acknowledging God’s mercy! If indeed you believe Jesus paid for your sins, you have to give up hating and start forgiving people quickly because they too had their sins paid for even when they have not believed! They are simply victims of ignorance! Pray that they stop being ignorant rather than pray that they die.
Learn to be the first to apologize to people even when you are not wrong. Actually, forgiveness is not only about others, but also about our own spiritual growth. Love and forgiveness cannot be separated. If we choose to live out the love of God as the purpose of our life, then forgiving is an unavoidable option. Paul wrote
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.– Ephesians 4:31-32
The Bible didn’t ask us to forgive because we have been forgiven but “as” we have been forgiven. It means we must forgive people using the method of God’s forgiveness to us! What was His method? UNCONDITIONAL FORGIVENESS. We must forgive people unconditionally even when they apologize or not! Even when they regard us as enemies, we ought to regard them as people worthy of our attention. After all, Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.
We must be ready to forgive people over and over again! God’s forgiveness for us has no end too! Jesus promised to be interceding on our behalf. Peter must have struggled with forgiveness. He walked up to Jesus, perhaps trying to find justification for not forgiving his brother after forgiving him previously for seven times. He asked Jesus “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sin against me? Up to seven times?”… Jesus answer was strong and shocking!
“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”– Matthew 18: 21-22
It is love that leads to forgiveness. Paul wrote
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.– 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Oh! What a lesson we were able to learn from Brother Stephen. In this century, many Christians would be praying “die by fire” for the enemies that want to harm them. But take a look at Stephen, even at the point of death, he still understood he needed not to die hating them and he even had compassion on them and prayed for their salvation. While he was being stoned, just few seconds or minutes before he gave up the ghost, he prayed
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”-Act 7:59-60
Rather than judge people’s actions, we need to forgive them. This may sound really hard but it is very true! Jesus said
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.– Luke 6:37
I believe that your life will be blessed through forgiving others. Would you like to choose to forgive for the benefit of others? Maybe your decision can bring an opportunity of redemption for others and you benefit from it just like we benefit from Paul’s conversion. Forgiveness doesn’t mean giving people another chance to hurt you, it doesn’t mean uniting again with someone who almost beat you to death, it doesn’t mean returning a child to the arms of an unrepentant father who abuses her but it means letting go of the hurts. Just because you have let go of the hurts doesn’t mean you should reconcile with people who will hurt you again.
Do you need to reconcile with people you have forgiven? Does forgiveness mean reconciliation? Read more about this here.