My visit to Bethlehem was a discomforting yet pleasant surprise. No, not Bethlehem, the city. Bethlehem the church. Pastor John tackled one of the toughest passages in the New Testament , particularly when teaching it to your own folks. The passage was I Corinthians 6:1-8. He met the issue of intra church and inter church conflict head on and lovingly delievered a biblical absolute that most of us would just as soon forget. “Why not put up with injustice. Why not rather be cheated.” I Corinthian 6:8
As I sat there contemplating how clear and direct this biblical mandate was, I recalled a few times in my ministry & my life as a Christ-follower that I had disrupted my fellowship with God and robbed myself of His power because I held a grudge against someone who had wronged me. But forgiveness seems so . . . weak.
There is a great quote attributed to Ghandi: “The weak cannot forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” How true! No greater display of forgiveness than when the dying Son of God forgave those who hated Him. Though we might not verbalize it, we all have our ideas of what demonstrates deep or mature Christian faith. For some, it might be how often you attend church. For another, it might be honesty & integrity. For still another, it might be a litany list of what you DON”T do. But for me . . . well I’m thinking this just might be the apex of true discipleship — the ability to overlook a hurt or offense without bitterness, resentment, or a desire for retaliation.
Following Jesus might seem intriguing when we consider His miracles. He healed the sick, He fed the hungry, He raised the dead. Is it any wonder that so many followed Him. They wanted what He could do for them. Their relationship with Christ was motivated by selfishness. But when we consider His example and His teaching, following Him seems more strenuous than intriguing. Think about it! This ONE Who could have called legions of angels for deliverance and destruction chose the path of peace. That cost Him His life. Everyone who was close to Him forsook Him. Yet, on that cross, He prays “Father, forgive them . . . “
Days later, when the resurrected Lord confronted those followers, we hear nothing but encouragement from His lips. No judgment of the doubting Thomas. No “I told you so” to the two-faced Peter. No tongue lashing to the dispersed disciples. They had already been forgiven. During those 40 days prior to the ascension, Jesus sought to restore, strengthen, and prepare those who had wronged Him for a mission that would change the world.
No wonder, the apostle Paul would later write, “Make your attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used to His own advantage. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death . . .” Read the whole account in Philippians 2:5-11
We must never become so distracted by the rigid maintenance of our “rights” that we forget such biblical absolutes as:
* “whoever will be great among you must be your servant” Matt 20:26 * ”Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those trespass against us” Mtt 6:12 * “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ” Ephesians 4:32
Building the Kingdom of God is never about you or me. It is about submission to the will of God, following the example of Jesus, and letting go of our hurts and disappointments by forgiving as Christ as forgiven us. It might seem uncomfortable at first, but letting go of that emotional load of bitterness and contempt is evidence that your relationship with Christ is strong and deep.
So, whatever injustice you might be holding on to, just let it go!