"And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted His raiment, and cast lots" (Luke 23:33-34)
***WARNING: THE LAW OF FORGIVENESS #3 CONTAINS FREQUENT USE OF BIBLE VERSES***
Forgiveness...is a law of Jesus?
Forgiveness is the central point of my prayer to God, and as His will on heaven and earth?
Forgiveness must be given to each individual in equal amount to the 490 years of forgiveness God gave the Jewish nation leading up to the coming of the Messiah?
Wow! How far must one carry this? Clearly the numerical value of sin one must forgive for just one person is staggering enough? To what degree of sin must one forgive? Is there a cutoff point when one can stop forgiving? How much will it cost me to truly be a Christian? How much must i endure? And for what purpose?
These are our questions every day, in every situation, with every person we come in contact with. We can accept that being forgiving is the will of God, and so to be forgiving is godly. We can accept that there should never be a numerical cap on forgiveness. That is quantitative forgiveness based on the quantity of sins committed against me. What is the quality of sins I must forgive? Are there types of sins I am allowed to not forgive?
The answer to this question is: NO. There is no sin that can be commited against me which I, as a disciple of Jesus, am not called to forgive.
We are called to be disciples of Jesus. As such, Jesus has this to say:
"The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master" (Luke 6:40)
"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles...And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved...The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" (Matthew 10:16-18, 21-22, 24-25)
I present to you the Luke text with the exact same Matthew text: Luke makes a simple statement; Matthew gives more background. Notice how we are just like our master. We are considered sheep and doves. Both of those are a animals to be sacrificed in the sanctuary for the salvation of the sacrificer. We are to be sacrifices.
This is done as a testimony against unbelievers. The word here is marturion, meaning evidence. It comes from the word martus, where we get our word martyr from. The idea here is that our lives are our evidence of a) God's goodness in Christ Jesus, and b) of humanity's wickedness.
Acts 1:7-8 "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
When Jesus spoke to the disciples at the moment of His ascension, He told them they were to be martus unto him. They were, as we are, to testify of His saving grace, even to the point of suffering and death. What does this mean?
John describes Jesus this way:
Rev 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.
John describes Jesus as the faithful and true Martus. What what is he testifying about?
John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Here we see a snap shot of Jesus testimony:
Jesus testifies to God's love for humanity.
Jesus testifies to humanities need for God.
Jesus testifies that God's heart is not to condemn, but to save.
Jesus testifies that salvation is by God's grace through faith in God's Son.
Jesus testifies that those who reject him love darkness, because they are evil. This condemns them.
It was for this testimony that Jesus was sent. It is for this testimony that His disciples are still sent out. We are living extensions of the testimony of Jesus. According to Matthew 10, if Jesus was despised for His testimony, we should expect the same. Which is what brings us back to the original verse. Jesus, as our Master, reacted this way when he was being crucified:
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!"
Jesus realized his purpose was not self-comfort, not self-vindication, not maintaining his good name. During this testimony, Jesus asks God to forgive his abusers. Jesus' heart was for their salvation. How far did their rejection of his testimony go?
they conspired against him
they chased away his friends
his friends abandoned him
his disciples ran away
Judas betrayed him
Peter denied him
John stood silently, and did not defend him
they lied on him
they convicted him in a mock trial
they beat him
they spit on him
they whipped him
they mocked him
they coerced the government to convict him
they paraded him around town
they made him carry a cross
they crucified him
The list could be more extensive, but you get the point. These people loved their wickedness so much, they abused and killed their Savior. And what does He do? He still offers them forgiveness. Later, He tells his disciples, "...you will be witnesses unto me..."
Jesus' example of His heart during suffering, as well as His description of His disciples in Acts 1:7-8, informs those who would be His disciples the quality of sins which must be forgiven. The quantity (490x's) we already know, now here is the quality: you forgive every thing every time, until you are dead. Why? Because a disciple is salvation focused. A disciple knows the salvation Jesus has given to them. The disciple knows how much God loves sinners, and longs to share that with others. The disciples knows sin, the condemnation it brings, and does not want that for anyone else. The disciple knows Jesus' can be misrepresented, and longs to represent Jesus as best she can, so that others may accept the gift of Jesus as she has. A disciple knows Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and as His disciple so is she (Matthew 5:14). A disciple accepts that she is called to extend the saving work of Jesus, even if it means being a living demonstration of His saving sacrifice. her heart is more toward others' salvation rather than her own protection. This is what led Stephen, dying from stoning for his martus, to proclaim "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
Let me explain.
When Jesus ascended, He sat at the right hand of God, the seat of all power and all authority in heaven and earth. Jesus himself says to the Pharisees, "Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.". When Stephen was stoned, he looked into heaven and saw Jesus standing. The only thing a disciple could conclude based on this vision and what Jesus said, is that judgment was about to come. The suffering of one of his disciples caused Jesus to stand, as a father would stand who saw his child being abused by multiple bullies. Stephen prayer for forgiveness interceded for sinners against an impending judgment from a standing Son of God!
Let me say this here and now. If one is being abused, and one accepts it from the position of a victim, this is not what Jesus was doing. Jesus knew he could call armies of heaven, set himself free, and destroy everyone in his path. The same for His disciples. We know whose we are, therefore who know who we are. We do not endure hardship because we are weak. We endure hardship, we suffer, we forgive, because we love as Jesus loved. We are not co-dependent. We do not enjoy pain, death. We are willing to demonstrate agape for the salvation of others, in order that they may see a living demonstration of Jesus sacrifice and have an opportunity to repent!
We are not beaten into submission! We Agape!
We are not manipulated into abuse! We chose!
We are not spineless or powerless! We Intercede!
We do not lack self-esteem! We are children of God!
We do not need the approval of men! Jesus stands for us!
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
Since this is His example, as well as His description of us, it is His word to us. Thus, for His disciples, it is the law.