In an attempt to take on the Bible cover to cover, I have been struggling with the book of Judges. One which truly brought me back to my single digit years as I reviewed much loved Sunday School classics like Samson and Delilah.
However, amidst my excitement, I grew increasingly annoyed with the Israelites. This was because of how often they would turn away from God and return to their worship of idols, after He had saved their lives. Their behaviour seemed so ridiculous to me, especially considering all of the heroes that God rose up to fight on their behalf each time they cried out to Him with repentant hearts. In my mind they were simply ungrateful.
Even though, I was fully aware that I had no right to judge them, considering how often I'd treated God like a genie in a bottle, able to grant unlimited wishes. Nonetheless, I was still unable to let this go and continued to justify why they were far worse than myself. But soon, I resolved to simply thanking God for being one that loves us enough to forgive us and give us more than one chance.
These attributes, for many of us, are our favourite things about Him. Yet in our efforts to be Christlike, there are not many of us that demonstrate these qualities.
In the often regimented way that many of us were taught to say the Lord's Prayer as children, it is easy to make a habit of repeating it without fully analysing the meaning of each sentence. One sentence that is commonly overlooked is "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Which indicates that God's forgiveness is conditional. Jesus reinforces this statement in Matthew chapter six verses fourteen and fifteen explaining that if we do not forgive others the Lord will not forgive us.
Love Covers a Multitude of Sin
As Christians we are called to love everyone and through this love to forgive them. However, we can all attest to the fact that some people are much harder to love than others, and some acts, much harder to forgive. Nonetheless, it is our knowledge of the Ultimate Love that should guide us to see pass the act and see the individual who may not seem worthy, and extend pardon and love. Much like God did for the Israelites, extending not only forgiveness but a helping hand.
The Ultimate Wrong
I can easily say that on the top ten list of things that hurt and anger people, is 'intentionally showing love to someone who in turn responds with unnecessary unkindness'. In such cases, we often yearn to seek revenge which is equal to or exceeding the level of pain we feel. However, no one knows this feeling more than Jesus, who showed love to all, but was still put to death among criminals.
Yet as he was nailed to a cross he neither became angry nor cursed those who wronged him, but in a demonstration of love said, "Father, forgive these people! They don't know what they're doing" Luke chapter 23 verse 34. In this statement we see a love that surpasses all understanding, as Jesus who has the power to do all things did not retaliate.
Turn the Other Cheek?
Many of us have a very hard time digesting Jesus' famous teaching on revenge. Which literally translates that if someone slaps us on the right cheek, we should turn and give them the other cheek also. Like most, a variety of questions plagued my mind concerning this. In my search for answers I came across a response on the topic, by the late Fr. Stephen F. Torraco who based his answer on the ideas of the early theologian St. Augustine.
Through his research Augustine indicated that this commandment was not literal for various reasons. Instead, it spoke to forgiving your assailant out of love, joy and help from God's Holy Spirit, as well as fearlessly showing them the love of Christ.
In relation to showing this love, we are taught in Proverbs chapter 15 verse 1, to respond with kind words in order to soothe the other person's anger as opposed to retaliating in a way that stirs up the situation.
As we consider the concept of second chances, which is a very controversial part of forgiveness, we ought to pay close attention to the following. Contrary to popular belief, giving someone a second chance is not the same as giving them another chance to hurt you. Bad experiences should teach us lessons which help us to set boundaries in our own lives. Therefore, we give second chances to people according to the position that they hold in our lives, allowing them another chance to prove themselves.
In our daily battle to love and forgive as God did for the Israelites, we can find solace in several promises from the Bible. Some of which include:
John chapter 3 verse 16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Ecclesiastes chapter 12 verse 14 "For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."
Matthew chapter 26 verse 28 "For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
Danielle Jones was born on the beautiful island of Barbados to phenomenal parents. She is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts in Drama as a part of a joint programme between the University of the West Indies, Mona and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica. She hopes to speak fluent Spanish someday, do global missionary work and spread the love of Christ.
Danielle Jones' previous articles may be viewed at http:/www.pressserviceinternational.org/danielle-jones.html" target="_blank">http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/danielle-jones.html