by Ken Barnes
“They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60 NASB)
Stephen prayed this prayer just as Jesus had done on the Cross. These may be two of the most powerful and purest requests ever made of God.
A prayer of forgiveness is always against human nature. It is normal to want to give people what they have given to you. If people show love, you naturally want to respond in kind. If people express hatred toward you, you want to react in like fashion.
Cause and effect operate in the natural world. Jesus and Stephen teach us that it is not a natural response that is needed but a supernatural one. If you purpose in your heart to forgive, you need to understand that you need God’s help. You are moving against the grain.
There is an interesting story in 2 Samuel about when David was driven from Jerusalem by Absalom’s rebellion. Shimei cursed and threw rocks at him as he left the city (2 Samuel 16:7). When David came back triumphantly to Jerusalem, Shimei was the first to meet him, begging for David’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 19:16-22).
What would you and I have done? David accepted his remorse and spared his life above the objections of some of his men (v.23).
Was Shimei’s repentance sincere, or was he trying to save his skin?
We don’t know the Bible doesn’t tell us. Sometimes it is better to err on the side of mercy than to judge a person’s heart and be wrong.
Forgive those most unforgiving; they need it the most.
I worked for seventeen years as a missionary with Youth With A Mission. My missionary work has taken me to Mexico, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Spain, and Ukraine. I hold a Masters of Education in curriculum and instruction from Virginia Commonwealth University. firstname.lastname@example.org
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