16 September 2012

The Courage to Forgive

He has lost it all: his home, his fellow warriors, his family. The smoke still billows from the inferno that once was called “home.” From deep inside, a rage boils that he has never felt before- a rage so intense, it is as if it would totally consume him!

“Arrrrgggggghhhhh!!!”

The barbarian’s primal scream echoes throughout the war-torn valley. He turns, tearfully, to once again look upon his boyhood home before he begins his long trek across rugged terrain to reach the neighboring village, a place where he can rest, gain strength, and begin living again.

As the minutes soon turn into hours, the barbarian comes upon a small brook that he and his friends often used to cool down their horses and relax beneath the shade of the willows along the bank. As he approaches the water he notices a man kneeling at the brook’s edge drinking water from his cupped hand. His heart begins pounding deep within his chest for he recognizes the armor and weaponry of his enemy, the very scum that he had watched pierce his brother through with his spear.

With the stealth of a prowling wolf, the barbarian makes his move to attack his unsuspecting prey. Just as the barbarian is preparing to thrust his broadsword into the neck of the enemy warrior, the man turns and catches a glimpse of his attacker approaching! He twirls about, but instead of reaching for his weapon, he remains on his knees—blood is oozing from a deep wound in his stomach and he has not the strength to stand, much less fight the barbarian.

The barbarian raises his broadsword high above his head to strike the death blow his enemy so much deserves when suddenly the barbarian’s eyes meet his enemy’s eyes and he freezes. “Those eyes, I have seen them before, they are my eyes!”

It only takes a portion of a second for the barbarian’s mind to imagine this man, raised in a hostile warrior’s home, killing his first man at 13 years old, in battle at 14, celebrating in victory the demise of an invading horde, just like himself.

“Is this all there is to being a barbarian? Death, pain, sorrow?” He thought. And then his rage begins to fade, and in its place he feels compassion for this dying man on his knees before him.

The barbarian lowers his sword and then tosses it to the ground. His eyes still haven’t left the eyes of the man before him. He lowers himself to his knees, now face to face with his enemy. His eyes begin to fill with tears, and he reaches out, embracing his enemy, and says, “I forgive you…”
* * * * * *
When we hear the word courage it is most often associated with brave and daring feats of wonder or strength like a fireman rushing into a burning home to rescue a baby from raging flames. But to even picture a huge war-torn barbarian falling to his knees to forgive his enemy---NO WAY! That is not a picture of courage it is a picture of weakness isn’t it?

I want to take you to a new place, a place that few men ever dare to tread. I want us to visit a place called “Forgiveness.” This place requires the strongest of hearts and the most fearless of all men. To forgive takes more courage and more guts than to seek revenge, to fight, or to simmer with rage.

After being beaten, being flogged, being spit on, and then nailed to a cross Jesus says to his Father “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Luke 23:34

That is courage. He could have called down legions of angels to kick some serious Roman and Pharisee butt, yet he chose to forgive.

If anyone ever had any right to hold a grudge or to seek revenge, it was God, but He chose to give us life by offering us forgiveness. Since God forgave us, then it only ‘goes to say’ that we need to forgive ourselves.

Have you ever thought that failing to forgive yourself is the same thing as saying, “I am better than God!?”

Think about it. God looks at you with all your failures, your screw-ups, your anger, your perversions and CHOOSES to forgive you because he loves you and desires the best for you.

Then you come along and say, “Yeah God, thanks for forgiving me, but I’m not gonna forgive myself.”

Who do you think you are? If God can forgive you, you must learn to forgive yourself.

There is nothing God will not forgive you for. So forgive yourself. Do not live in your guilt and shame. Allow shame to do its godly work and bring you to the cross to seek God’s forgiveness and then He will take that shame and replace it with joy. Shame is meant to bring you to God.

After you have rested in God’s forgiveness and, in that, forgiven yourself, then you can begin forgiving others.

Forgiveness is not my strong point. If you hurt me, I want to hurt you. But forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt for the hurt I felt. Do I have the courage to accept such surrender? Do I have the passion to forgive in spite of my pain?

I think we lean more towards unforgiveness! When you read about a little child being molested or killed, I don’t particularly care to forgive! When I read about Christians being slaughtered simply because they love Jesus, it makes it hard to forgive. I would rather just condemn them all to Hell! But…..

Jesus tells me to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Eph 4:31-32

Forgiveness takes courage. Courage because it involves risk. You are placing your heart out there to be stomped on! But Jesus holds us to a very high standard. In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus said, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, I repent—forgive him!”

Have the courage to be a person of forgiveness. Be a barbarian, not a wimp!

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