Forgiving Those Who Fail Us
I wonder if thoughts of Stephen's murder entered Paul's mind while he was defending himself before the Roman tribunal. Although the apostle's friends, disciples, and converts had not come to support him, he didn't want the Lord to discipline any of them (2 Tim. 4:16). Paul offered a "cover" of forgiveness, just as Stephen forgave all of the men who were involved in stoning him to death.
Believers need to realize that forgiveness is the right response when others cause hurt. Grace is not only the Lord's mercy towards us; it is also His mercy flowing through us. Holding a grudge does not fit the new, Spirit-filled person we became at salvation. Furthermore, Jesus Christ paid the sin-debt of those who harm
us, even if they never accept His free gift of grace. Pardoning others is an aspect of growing more Christ-like.
No one claims that forgiving an offense is easy to do. Some people visit such terrible evil on others that they seem undeserving of clemency. However, God knows—and believers must understand—that offering mercy is far better for the wronged person than living with the alternatives: bitterness, revenge, and anger gnaw at the spirit until they consume good will, good health, and clear thinking.
The Holy Spirit will never fail to help us forgive. He gently draws out our hurt, betrayal, and anger—and then refills our heart with mercy. Only when we are fully yielded to Him can we say with Stephen, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" (Acts 7:60).
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