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Forgive them

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Thurs Mar 28, 2013

EASTER MESSAGE

by BISHOP SONNY E. WILLIAMS

Presiding Bishop: 

Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, St Vincent and the Grenadines District.

 
The story was told of a man who loved dogs. He went in front of the house and began pouring a walkway on the street. As he was nearly finished, a dog trotted right through the middle of the wet cement. Since he was a dog lover, he overlooked the dog’s inability to recognize wet cement and he calmly re-smoothed the walkway. Knowing it could happen again, he placed a rope along each side of the walkway. But a few minutes later, the dog pounced over the rope and again splashed through the cement.{{more}}
 
His patience dwindled, but he didn’t retaliate, he just chased the dog with some harsh words. Again he smoothed out the concrete and incredibly enough, the dog sneaked behind him and leaped flat-belly into the middle of the walkway. The man stormed into the house, snatched his gun, went outside and shot the dog! His neighbour witnessed everything and rushed over to his friend and said “I thought you loved dogs.” The man responded “I do love dogs, but that’s in the abstract. I hate dogs in the concrete.”

This may be the way many of us have approached the difficult issue of forgiveness. We many love forgiveness in the abstract, but hate it in the concrete. Forgiveness means to choose to release someone you have been holding in your debt, holding in resentment and bitterness and releasing him or her. Forgiveness means releasing someone from personal obligation to you – even though that person will have to face the justice of God and man.

Forgiveness is not calling something immoral or destructive ok. It is not turning a blind eye to injustice. Forgiveness calls sin, sin, and in many ways it holds the individual accountable for his or her actions. Forgiveness says you hurt me and what you did was wrong, but I will not hold it against you. I will try not to get back at you and I will not hate you for it.

Forgiveness is a radical and countercultural perspective on life. It runs contrary to our human nature. It is not easy to give up our right to be hurt, to be angry, to get back, to hate the other for what they have done. It is easier to bear a grudge than to implement mercy. It is easier to brood and make people sweat than to release the offense and implement mercy.

A deep grasp of how much God has forgiven us is a prime motivation for forgiveness. This is the clear message of Easter, as proclaimed by Jesus from the cross: “Father, forgive them….” Forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave the issues of fairness to God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy. This act is saying if there is any punishment that is needed, any granting of mercy, God is the just judge.

We must forgive those who hurt us because God commands us, to and our own forgiveness hinges on it and because it is best for us. When we refuse to forgive, the bitterness can grow like cancer within us and eats away at us, causing stress and illness and lack of joy. The only cure for this malady is the surgery of forgiveness.

When we refuse to forgive, we allow the sin that was committed against us to hurt us twice. Once when we were first sinned against and again by keeping us from receiving God’s forgiveness and the resulting physical, social and emotional pain. Modern medicine has discovered that a bitter spirit can seriously affect our health. The moment I refuse to forgive and start hating someone, I become his or her slave. Pent up wrath, bitterness, anger and resentment produce too many stress hormones in our body.

This Easter, heed the words and example of Jesus on the Cross: “Father, forgive them…….” (Luke 23:34)

You may have had terrible things done to you by someone you loved and trusted. You may have lost a great deal because of someone’s actions. It is not easy to forgive, but God in His grace will give you the power to do it.

On behalf of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, St Vincent and the Grenadines District, I wish you a blessed Easter season.

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