On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. It is a glorious day!
Three days before His resurrection on Easter Sunday,* Jesus died for our sins on the cross. This most important event in human history provided for the forgiveness of our sins, which meant by trusting in Jesus, we would be with Him in heaven after we die. Every sin you and I have committed, in the past and in the future, is forgiven by Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus sacrificed it all so we could have eternal life.
We Don’t Deserve Forgiveness
Not a single one of us deserve His forgiveness, but Jesus forgave us anyway. On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NASB) Although the context of what Jesus said was directed at those that had a hand in his crucifixion, we all have a part in His crucifixion because of our sin. Jesus paid the ultimate price for us. He didn’t deserve to die, but He did, so we could have the blessing of forgiveness of all of our sins.
God sacrificed His son on the cross because of love. And Jesus His son willingly gave His life, the ultimate gift. Probably the most famous passage of scripture is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB) Another verse reflecting the love that led to Jesus’ death is Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NASB)
Forgiving Others As We Were Forgiven
Jesus wants us to forgive others when they don’t deserve it, just as He forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. Ephesians 4:32 says, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV) In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks Jesus how often we should forgive someone that has sinned against us, Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (NASB)
Forgiving others is not only a command from God, it brings great benefit to us. In the book Live Free by Dennis and Jen Clark, they tell us, forgiveness “brings profound healing to our heart and great clarity to our mind. We are then able to make better decisions based on peace, not anxiety. . . . Yielding to Christ the forgiver washes the poison of toxic emotions from our cellular memory and allows physical healing to take place.”
The Power to Truly Forgive
We are not capable of true forgiveness of others in our own power, but we have hope in Jesus. “The reality of true forgiveness is this: forgiveness is a Person. It is an encounter with Someone, a supernatural exchange taking place: Christ Himself for our sin and pain. We cannot forgive in our own power, as hard as we may try. Christ is He who forgives through us. We do not extend forgiveness by ourselves, from ourselves. . . . Christ the forgiver, who lives inside of us, does all the work. True forgiveness requires encountering Christ the forgiver rather than merely knowing and reciting Scriptures or a doctrine of forgiveness.” (From Live Free)
When we provide the gift of forgiveness to someone else, we are “canceling the debt that was committed against us. We are ceasing to sit in the place of judgment and releasing them to God. If forgiveness is a Person, then it is Christ working through us by His grace to release the wrong done against us. Yes, it includes the mind, will, and emotions, and it must be engaged in with our whole heart.” (From Live Free)
Can We Forgive Like This?
One of the greatest illustrations of letting the power of Jesus work through someone to forgive is told by Corrie Ten Boom in Guideposts Magazine. (This story was excerpted with permission from Guideposts by Family Life Ministries.) As a teenage girl, she was a prisoner in one of the Nazi Germany Concentration Camps in World War II. She was one of the few that survived the brutal treatment in the camp where she lost her sister, at the hands of the prison guards.
As told in the article in Guideposts, she was speaking to a group of people at a church in Germany shortly after the war ended, with the message that God forgives. One of those in the group she spoke to was a former prison guard from the prison where she was held captive and abused. She saw him coming toward her after she had finished speaking, and when she recognized him, the image of her encounter with him in the prison camp came back fresh in her mind. She says, “I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.”
He stuck out his hand to shake hers, and told her that since the time he was a guard in that camp, he had now become a Christian. “I know God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips, ‘will you forgive me’?”
When he asked for her forgiveness, multiple thoughts quickly raced through her mind. As one whose sins had been forgiven again and again, she could not forgive him. She also thought of others she knew that were victims of Nazi brutality. The ones who forgave their former enemies were able to rebuild their lives, no matter the severity of the scars. Those who remained bitter were like invalids.
As she stood there in front of him, she was reminded that “forgiveness is an act of the will.” It “is not an emotion.” She prayed silently, “Help! I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
She continues, “And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hand, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”
God gave her the will and the strength to forgive, in what would seem to be an impossible situation.
The Generosity of Forgiving
At Easter, it is a great time to remember the generosity of Jesus’ forgiveness of us and our sins. Since Jesus forgave us, we have the power through His strength to extend the gift of forgiveness to anyone that has wronged us, no matter how extreme the wrong.
Who is God bringing to mind that you know you need to forgive? Imagine the blessing you can bring them by extending your forgiveness. What freedom might you experience once you forgave them?
*The Jewish calendar counted the day of the event (Jesus dying on the cross) along with the days following, when saying how many days had passed. Good Friday, the Saturday in between (Jewish Sabbath), and Easter Sunday combined gives us three days.