If I were to ask you to describe someone for me, say people at work, college, church or within the family, I’m sure at first instance, we come up with a list of people whom we remember for all the nice things they have done to us or for the kind of person they are. Subconsciously, there also lies another hidden category of people that we definitely do not want to remember or associate with. By remembering them we invoke memories that caused pain – Judgment. Hate. Negativity. Arrogance.
The list could go on. We all live in a world where such things are bound to exist. Most of us at one point or the other are -Hurt. Betrayed. Manipulated. Misunderstood. Backstabbed.
For a while, we all struggle to deal with such emotions, but eventually, some of us become experts at hiding it all within. Some self-help books call this ‘boxing or compartmentalizing your emotions’. But here’s the problem – the pain is real, the hurt still exists within! We tend to apply makeup to hide these scars from the outside world but the longer we carry the bitterness within, the more we become a slave to it.
I’ve come across so many people who look perfectly well on the outside but deep inside they struggle with such issues. The scars of bitterness, unforgiveness or grudges are not to be taken lightly!
So how should we react when people do us wrong even when we have done right?
The Story of Stephen
Here is an example from the Bible. We read about a man named Stephen in the early chapters of the Acts of Apostles. The Bible describes him as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). He was full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6: 8).
Sounds like an amazing person. Right? And yet there were many who could not stand the wisdom and Spirit which Stephen carried and they trapped him with false accusations. They had him arrested and questioned before the council of the high priest. These people were quite religious and zealous about God and Moses. And so, they were right in their own eyes. However, it’s the attitude of Stephen at such a hurtful situation that we need to consider.
Being respectful even when they aren’t
When Stephen was questioned by the High Priest, he respectfully starts his defense by addressing them as “Brothers and fathers, hear me”.
During those times, persecution was quite severe. Stephen wasn’t even sure of the outcome of this investigation and yet he chose to be respectful to his accusers. That’s a sign of a man who walks with God and led by the Holy Spirit. God is a God of principles. As His children, we are called to adopt these principles in our life too. Be Respectful and honorable to everyone and especially people in authority over you.
Carry a heart of compassion and forgiveness
Stephen began his speech with a history lesson reminding these religious folks about their forefather Abraham and the promise he received, Joseph being sold to the Egyptians and his ascension as the ruler, Israelites’ slavery in Egypt for 400 years, Moses and his call to lead the people of Israel towards the promised land, arrogance and disobedience of the people and finally pointing them towards Jesus as the promised Messiah. Yet these people who claimed to understand the scriptures failed to understand. They were angry at him for pointing out their mistakes. They cast him out of the city and stoned him to death.
Even at their utmost state of cruelty, Stephen’s attitude did not change. He was compassionate towards them. He fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). A one-line prayer filled with so much compassion and forgiveness for his persecutors!
Forgiving others is sometimes the toughest thing to do. It is a powerful act and takes courage to offer forgiveness to others. Jesus displayed the same attitude when He was on the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do (Luke 23:34). Jesus set an example and we are called to follow it.
We can have all kinds of spirituality but if we ignore our internal issues we will have external deficiencies – Pr. Shyju Mathew
During the institution of the Lord’s Table, Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). It is not just about remembering the death of Jesus on the cross, but even his acts and attitude. Carry an attitude of forgiveness and set yourself free by offering grace and forgiveness to others. Let’s practice it so much that eventually, it becomes our lifestyle. Kindness and Compassion are the fruit of the Spirit and we need to bear fruit as His children.
For “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
“But it isn’t easy!!”
I know!!! When it becomes tough just remember the cross. I know for a fact that I live every day because of God’s mercy. I am flawed in many ways yet His love sustains me. If God could forgive me and love me unconditionally despite my infinite flaws then how can I withhold the same grace I have received from offering it to others? This is the Christ-like attitude.
This is the revelation that has personally sustained me during my toughest journey of forgiving others. This revelation never gets old. It moves our hearts to do it over and over again! Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Let our priority be to get our internal world back in order so that we may walk in the fullness of His calling. The freedom and the feeling of being set free are amazing. So make it a priority to set yourself free today by offering forgiveness to those to whom it is due. God bless you!