Characteristics of Jesus for Us to Model: Forgiving
When he was only 11 years old, Didier witnessed the killing of his mother, a street vendor (in Medellin, Colombia). She was killed with 38 bullets.
As a reaction to his mom’s killing, Didier went down a self-destructive path and embraced a life of drugs, alcohol and crime for four years. “In drugs and alcohol, I looked for the love that was taken away from me with the assassination of my mother,” he said in article written about his story.
In those years, Didier was also thinking about retaliation and vengeance. People in the neighborhood told him who the killer of his mom was. He was not living far away from Didier’s home. Planning his vengeance, Didier started collecting guns and even two grenades in his room. At night he would cry and think of how he would kill his mother’s assassin, but he never found the courage to do so.
The opportunity for change arrived when a friend, belonging to a Christian church, approached Didier. He was skeptical and dismissive at first but eventually accepted the words and the invitation of his friend. As he was realizing that the hatred he was harboring in his heart was consuming his soul and was killing him, he found the strength and the courage to forgive the man who killed his mom.
One day Didier saw the killer sitting on the street curb. He joined him, sat next to him and asked him why he had killed his mother. The man broke down sobbing. Those tears were, for Didier, the confirmation that the man was the one who shot his mother to death.
Some time later, Didier ran into the man again. He went up to him and told him, “I don’t know why you killed my mother, but I forgive you.” Didier embraced the man, and the guy once again broke down in sobs.
Later, Didier discover that it was someone else who had killed his mother. He learned it from a friend, who inquired if Didier had indeed forgiven his mother’s assassin. When he was assured, Didier’s friend confessed to him, “My brother killed your mother.” Since, Didier has been trying to find the whereabouts of the killer, because he learned that he is facing troubles. “I want to give him my forgiveness, and try to help him,” Didier told me.
For the past few years, Didier has been helping other youth who are facing trouble and problems. He has become an authentic and transformational leader. A source of hope and wisdom for many. “If I was able to change and to forgive, then others can do so as well.”
What stood out to me in this story is that forgiveness is a choice and truly involves God’s help. We see that in life today as we see it in the Scriptures today.
We have been talking about characteristics of Jesus that we must model.
What did Jesus say and model when it came to forgiveness?
Jesus often spoke about forgiveness, forgave those who sinned against others, forgave those who sinned against him, and asked the Church to continue his healing ministry.
Jesus taught, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you” (Mt 6:14).
Peter asked Jesus how often it is necessary to forgive, and Jesus replied, “Seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22), a number to be taken symbolically, not literally, for the never-ending way that we ought to forgive.
Just as compassion, kindness and love must be part of our spiritual DNA, so must forgiveness.
During his conversation with Peter, Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:23-35).
Matthew 18: 23-35…
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[a] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[b] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
I do not think Jesus could have painted a clearer picture of what forgiveness should look like. If you truly live in the forgiveness of God’s love, then forgiveness should pour out of your soul for others.
Not only was Jesus the epitome of forgiveness by His own life, but…
Jesus was extremely kind and merciful in the way that he forgave those who sinned against others. Jesus told the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:5); when a sinful woman bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair, Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Lk 7:48); when a woman caught in adultery was brought before him, he said, “I do not condemn you” (Jn 8:11).
I’ve often thought of this woman caught in adultery and wondered if there had ever been a time in her life before that that she had not been condemned. She was not only ridiculed by the religious leaders, but probably by her own family as well.
Maybe you know someone like that. They have only been condemned in their life.
What an unbelievable feeling it must have been for that woman to have someone say to her her… “I do not condemn you.”
As Jesus hung on the cross he told the repentant criminal, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43).
What a moment of forgiveness for that criminal, who probably thought, and rightfully so, all hope was gone.
And what about the way Jesus forgave those who sinned against him directly.
For Jesus, forgiveness was not an automatic, it was intentional, a conscious choice. Remember, He was not only a 100 percent God, but was 100 percent human as well.
After the Roman soldiers had scourged and nailed him, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Lk 23:34). After the resurrection Jesus had every right to be furious. Peter had denied him. The others had deserted him. When he entered the Upper Room, they deserved a severe reprimand, but instead, with divine compassion Jesus said not once but three times, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19,21,26).
Jesus told Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19);
Every person who is heaven has experienced ultimate forgiveness. Your loved ones and mine are living forever free in the arms of Jesus, because they were forgiven. While we are still on this earth, we must tell and show the world what forgiveness can do for them.
No matter a person’s past, God can and will forgive, through Jesus. That is what we must loose on earth. The amazing forgiveness of God.
And after the resurrection Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (Jn 20:22,23).
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be ministers. We must live and exude forgiveness. We must model the same forgiveness that Jesus modeled.
Just like the young boy who saw His mother murdered, God witnessed the murder of His Son. Did He retaliate? No, God’s plan was to forgive us all along. And His Son, would be the instrument of forgiveness.
Invite the worship team up and begin playing…
Are you having trouble forgiving someone who has wronged you?
Maybe you have wronged someone, and they are wanting to forgive you but you can’t get past what you did. Receive their forgiveness.
If you are a believer, didn’t you have to receive God’s forgiveness through Christ?
Scripture References: Matthew 6: 14, Matthew 18: 23-35, Matthew 18: 22, John 20: 19, 21, 26