Beyond Forgiveness

This week as I reviewed the most recent incident, I discovered that my concept of forgiveness was lacking something. But two days ago, the Lord reminded me of a Bible verse I had known almost all my life. Because it would not leave my mind, I decided to take my Bible and read the whole passage so I wouldn’t miss anything. Each of Jesus’ statements in that chapter seemed so powerful, so impossible to live out or achieve with human strength. But none of them bothered me until I came to verse 44 in Matthew 5, the very verse I had thought about for the past two days: “Love your enemies.” I discovered that the completion of forgiveness was to “love your enemy.” What was more, I was not living it, especially not in this last encounter.

How Much Does Jesus Love His Enemy?

Jesus had many enemies, but He allowed His most “deadly” one to live with Him. This was not because Jesus didn’t recognize who he was. John 2: 25 NLT says, “No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.”

For three years, Judas walked with Him on the road, ate with Him and slept on the same floor. Jesus taught him just the same as the other disciples, provided for his needs and allowed him to be part of every event, miracle, struggle, prayer meeting and teaching session. He even gave Judas power to heal the sick and to preach.

Every day, Judas was able to talk with Jesus, to see Him and take up His time.

When he finally came to betray Him, Jesus called him “My friend.” Jesus meant “friend” with His whole heart, because He didn’t use vain words. He actually loved Judas, knowing from the very beginning what Judas was going to do three years later.

There is not one report in the Gospels that Jesus treated Judas differently, put him down or loved him less than the other disciples. All the time Jesus knew Judas’ heart, yet He showed him love, expecting one day that he would pierce and crush His emotions—which were as human as mine.

I believe that if Judas would not have killed himself, Jesus would have had enough love to offer forgiveness to him after His resurrection. After all, He forgave Peter, who denied Him three times in a row.

From this relationship, I can see that Jesus’ love was totally a supernatural one, impossible for me to produce in my heart. It’s just not there. I had thought that my forgiveness was above average. But God did not ask me to evaluate something by what I had achieved, but by what Jesus said and portrayed in His life. Looking at this, I had to confess that my ability to forgive was far below His. In fact, I was almost afraid to honestly evaluate it to see how much lower it was.

How Much Do I Love My Enemy? I forgave for Christ’s sake. I didn’t ask God, anymore, to pay him back with the same hurt or to punish him. I even asked God to bless his life. I didn’t expect or ask for any apology, and I did not expect him to admit his wrong, then or in the future.

There was no bitterness in my heart, no hate, no anger … but also no love. Even if I wanted to love that person, it was totally above my strength, above my ability, above anything I could find in my heart. With all honesty I could say I didn’t even want to love that person.

God always looks for completeness in anything He does. So one-half or two-thirds forgiveness will not be sufficient in His eyes. His goal is that, like Jesus, I should offer complete forgiveness: “Love your enemy!”

It was as though I was on a journey in life, with a specific destination to reach: complete forgiveness. Looking at Jesus, my example, I realized that I never reached my goal—I had stopped along the way!

When we are treated wrongly, or we think we are, as humans we will all go through a time of difficult emotional hurt. Yet as believers, we should be able to walk through all these stages with Christ’s help and end up with complete forgiveness in our hearts, restored fellowship (if at all possible) and even love for our enemy.

The second part of the “forgiveness story”

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