Considerations on Praying FOR an Enemy

Perhaps last week’s blog, HOW Are You Praying FOR Your Enemies? (April 14, 2020), would have been better called WHY We Should Pray FOR Our Enemies.  So today I will address some practical considerations for HOW to Pray FOR Your Enemies.

First, keep foremost in mind that Father wants our hearts to begin to align with His despite what you read in the Psalms.  Remember, the Psalms are hymns of praise and prayers offered by fallible humans to their Creator.  This is not to suggest there are errors in the Bible, but just as we do not take theological lessons from the historical books unless they are clearly elucidated elsewhere, we should be careful in drawing lessons from the Psalms when we are reading the pleas of hearts in distress.  When did you hear a “worship song” based on Psalm 109:1-15?

Remember that we were once enemies of the cross, even if you accepted Jesus when you were three or four years old.  Until you surrendered control of your life to Him, YOU were in charge of your life, and God help the one who interfered with YOUR plans!  Many of us remained capricious followers of Jesus even after great spiritual experiences in our youth, unstable and fickle.  While in a fit of pique we may agree with the Psalmist when he cries for Father to make our enemy’s children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit” (Psalm 109:10), it is not Father’s heart to punish children for the sins of their dads (Ezekiel 18:19-20).

Second, however, prayer FOR an enemy does not mean asking Father to make his plans succeed!  When someone intends evil it is our responsibility, as much as we are able, to resist such intentions.  But we are not to hate the person who needs salvation.

When Jesus confronted Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians and criticized them or humiliated them with His superior reasoning, it still came from a heart that was looking for what was best for them, as well as to prevent them from influencing the masses of people from following them.  But when it came to one-on-one His heart went out to those who loved money (or anything else) more than Him or His righteousness (Mark 10:17-22).  Like Father, he wanted His enemies to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  That is how you and I got into the Kingdom!  Dare we deny someone else entry because we have made it!?

Third, we must be clear in our opposition to that which is opposed to godliness, but we must do so as gently as Jesus, who would not quarrel nor break someone who was bruised by life, nor snuff out one who had even a spark of hope in him (Isaiah 42:2-3; Matthew 12:19-20).  “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24).

The difficulty in “loving the sinner but hating the sin” is more easily understood if we realize how often we do this for ourselves.  (See   for more detail on this.)  When we do something foolish or unrighteous, we make every kind of excuse possible until we finally fall at Jesus’ feet and ask for His mercy.  This is because I sometimes do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).  And my love for myself compels me to hate what I do, more so as I get to know Jesus better.

So when Jesus calls us to love our enemies as ourselves and pray for them, this is what He has in mind.  We are to approach our prayers FOR our enemies recognizing that they were deceived and that continuation on the path they are on will lead to their eternal separation from the Lord of life; isolation where there is weeping, cruel loneliness that never ends, filled with longings that will never be satisfied, and outer darkness that lets in absolutely no light (Matthew 8:11-12).  As you align your heart with His, you will find yourself looking into that abyss and thinking, “I would not wish that for my worst enemy!”

Now you are ready to reach out in love, even to your enemies.  So ask Father to reveal Himself to your enemy.  Ask Him to let them see clearly the results of the choices they are making.  Ask Him to guide others or circumstances around them so they will experience what they need, and not suffer the anger we feel at them.  Ask Him how you might be able to shed light into their darkness (and not heat 😤!).  And prepare to keep on loving them even if they refuse your heart to help.

  • So pray FOR the President that he will recognize his shortcomings and humbly ask for guidance when he needs it.
  • So pray FOR Nancy Pelosi that she will come to understand how her disrespect only reflects her immaturity and inability.
  • So pray FOR that Muslim neighbor with a burka and FOR her husband that they might come to knowledge of the Truth.
  • So pray FOR the pro-abortionist who screams how lucky she is to have had an abortion so that she can now afford a fancy car and easy lifestyle.
  • So pray FOR the neighbor who seems to enjoy harassing you.
  • So pray FOR that ex-spouse that they will experience forgiveness and so forgive you.
  • So pray FOR your son or daughter who has turned his/her back on the faith they were taught.

Some you may see transformed as you live out Christ’s life before them.  Some you may be able to speak with, and influence, even in a small way, to consider their course.  Some you will have to simply leave in Father’s hands, fearing for their end that they may not turn in time.  But pray FOR them, that they will.  That is HOW we should pray FOR our enemies.

HOW Are You Praying FOR Your Enemies?

How do we pray FOR someone evil or with whom we thoroughly disagree?  This is an important corollary to Jesus’ command to love your enemies.  Matthew 25:44 tells us this and to “pray for those who persecute you.”  Now, don’t go all Pharisee on me and say, “It does not command me to pray for all my enemies, just those who persecute me!”

Let me summarize with a quote and then expand, so if you fully understand C.S.Lewis’ quote you can quit reading and do something more important.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory

First, it is important to realize that person with whom you so thoroughly disagree is most likely deceived.  He or she does not realize they are not acting in their own best interests.  Like the phantoms in Lewis’ Great Divorce, there is something they want more than Heaven, not realizing Heaven would provide for them so much more than the meager trinkets to which they are clinging.  “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

These blinded individuals are to be pitied more than hated.  “Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13)  Once deceived, they encourage others to join in their destructive behavior (Proverbs 10:17), not realizing they are accumulating corruption and chains that bind them ever more tightly until one day they will have become so entangled there will not be any escape.  Like adding one tiny strand to a rope, each occurrence of mischief entwines layer by layer until they simply are beyond hope, but it is never for us to make that determination while they are still in the land of the living.

Secondly, Father’s heart is to do what is best for them.  That is right, the Creator loves your enemy and wants what is good for them!  2 Peter 3:9 affirms this in the New Testament as does Ezekiel 33:11 in the Old Testament.  The whole Bible is Father’s love letter to a world that chose to ignore His simple direction in the Garden of Eden, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

His intention, His heart was to give us each and all the very best with very little restriction.  But with Adam’s and Eve’s narrow and short-sighted choice, they brought disobedience, deception and death into the world.  And without His loving provision there would not be any hope for any of us.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only born Son . . .” (John 3:16). Notice, NOT that He loved those who would choose to obey Him; not that He loved people of a certain geography or genetic line; not that He loved the ones who would learn to abide in Him.  NO, He loved and loves the whole world!

  • That includes the guy who raped a 16 year old girl the day before he shipped off to Vietnam and left scars in her life so she never learned how to develop good relationships with men.
  • That includes the dad who, drunk again, hit his son so hard up the side of his head that he could no longer think straight in school and now has a hard time holding a job.
  • That includes Dr. Levatino ( as he performed 1,200+ abortions of babies at every stage of development.
  • That includes a president who may be a misogynistic self-aggrandizing narcissist.
  • That includes a Speaker of the House who may have so little respect for the Constitution or Office of the President that she would tear up his SOTU speech on national view like a child throwing a tantrum.
  • That includes the idiot who drove 60mph up Nicholasville Road and killed a pedestrian.
  • That includes the drug addict who has made a thousand choices that were foolish.
  • That includes the pusher who sells him the drugs.

There is NO ONE excluded from the love that took Jesus to the cross.  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:6-8)

  • That includes me!! And yes, that includes YOU!

So now, thirdly, my problem is to align my heart with Jesus’ and pray FOR my enemies the way Jesus would pray for them.  How would you pray for a coworker who spreads cruel information about you to prevent you from getting respect at work?  How would you pray for a wayward son who refuses to have anything to do with following Jesus?  How would you pray for a spouse who has walked away from faith and wounded you so deeply you do not know if you will ever recover?

Think of how Jesus prayed for his crucifiers while he was dying on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)  Some have said this is one of two prayers of Jesus to which Father said, “No.”  But Father’s answer is not our concern here.  What we need to examine is our hearts to see if we share Jesus’ desire for our enemies.

His Heart is broken for those you find too smelly, degraded or offensive to associate with.  He loves your enemy and makes His expectation of us very clear: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

So now, how will you pray FOR your enemy?



A Gift You Keep by Giving It Away

Christmas Gifts.jpgChristmas time and everyone is thinking about, blogging about, shopping about and hoping about gifts.  Here is a gift for you.  The only catch is that you can only keep it by giving it away.  Confused?

Remember that guy in second grade who always picked on you?  How about the fourth-grade girl who copied your test and blamed you when the teacher got suspicious, and you were punished?  Then there was the college girl who pointed at you with her friends who were laughing hilariously at you, and you were left wondering what was so funny.  What about the guy who cut you off in busy traffic so that you had to wait for another light?  Go back to each one in your mind and in your heart of hearts and forgive them, — one — by — one.  Not all that hard to do for these.

But what about the guy who raped you when you were 16?  He died in an auto wreck a few years later; how do you forgive him!?  Or the guy who lied at work and cost you your job and left your family reeling from financial difficulties with which you are still struggling?  The continuous offense of a family member who just will not quit doing that even though it is so offensive to everyone in the family?  The cruel words, “I do not love you anymore,” that left a woman bereft of the love she thought would last forever.  An ex-spouse whose lies and distortions hurt more than if she had an affair.

Forgive them, too.  As hard as this can be, you simply must forgive them.  Jesus almost made it sound like a caveat that God’s forgiveness of you was dependent on your forgiveness of those who offended you.  For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)  Okay, not almost!  He said it specifically so that it sounds like that!  What Jesus is describing here is not a one-time action; it is an attitude of the heart.

Attitude:manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind” according to  It is like muscle tone for the brain.  Muscle tone means greater strength, increased mobility and flexibility, and less exhaustion from the same amount of work.  Body BuildingAttitude is this for the brain; it is the automatic positioning of unconscious choices that makes your thoughts work in a certain way.  And development of this can make training for Mr. World seem like a walk in the park, especially where forgiveness is concerned.

We take offense so easily and feel like we cannot love the sinner while hating the sin.  Yet we do it almost every day.  Well, maybe you don’t, but I do.  I do something that I know is offensive to my Lord and Master, and then I just say how sorry I am for messing up again and go on my way like everything is now okay since I sincerely repented.  And it is.

The only trouble is applying this same principle to others when they mess up.  So you see, I really do know how to hate the sin yet love the sinner, as long as the sinner is me.  And in fact, the more I love myself, the more I hate the sin I commit.  What I need more of is recognition that everyone else is living regrettable lives sometimes committing sin they detest.  Does anyone really want to be angry all the time?  Is anyone wishing to be lonelier because of their bitterness?  Who among us enjoys being miserable?

Joy is not an absence of pain, problems or predicaments.  It is a sense of God being in control even in the middle of the trial of tears and tribulation, a confidence that He will balance justice and mercy perfectly one day.  And it is only discoverable as we develop an attitude of forgiveness.

This is what sustained Betsy and Corrie ten Boom through the horrors of a Nazi POW camp.  It is what made Louie Zamperini forgive The Bird who had tortured him in a Japanese prison.  It is what gave Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah confidence to defy the king of Babylon (See Daniel 3).  It is why Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

A word of caution is appropriate here.  I am not suggesting you go tell the offender he/she is forgiven.  That could open a “whole ‘nuther can o’ worms!”  Do this only if the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear that you must.  The issue is not to get kudos from the offender for your being so forgiving.  The only issue is for you (me!) to develop the mental tone, the attitude, the heart-felt forgiveness that you need in order to understand and accept God’s forgiveness of you.

So receive a Christmas gift that you can only keep by giving it away.  Forgive someone who does not deserve it, but needs it.

When You Pray by © May 1, 1996
Don’t be fooled to thinking He counts the number of your words
As if pagan repetition can get your prayers heard.
Forgive as you’re forgiven. That’s where prayer has to start,
For He who is unseen looks on the secrets of your heart.

So when you pray, go into the secret place.

Close the door, and begin to seek His face.
Wait for Him. Though unseen He’ll meet you there,
And He’ll reward you openly in answer to your prayer.

Those who love the praise of men offer prayers just for show.
When they fast they make their faces sad so everyone will know.
Their reward is to be seen of me, whatever else they may believe.
I tell you now this simple truth: That’s all that they’ll receive.

Now there’s a room within your heart that only two can share.
It’s a secret place He’s made for you to meet with Him in prayer.
And though your conversation may be heard by many more
The Lord comes to the secret place to know who the prayer is for.

Our Father up in Heaven, holy is Your name;
Your kingdom come, Your will be done in Heaven and earth the same.
Provide for us our daily bread. Grant us grace as we forgive.
Lead us not into temptation, freed from Satan’s power to live.




Forgive Me – Umm, Excuse Me, One More Time

I want to discuss forgiveness one more time ( . . this will come up again, count on it, and probably more than seven times!).

Recall that on September 9, 2018, I noted that we do not need forgiveness if we have an excuse.  The thought is not original with me, but I cannot locate where I read this; please forgive . . . or rather, excuse me! 😉).  But it seems rational to me.

Suppose some older guy with out-of state-plates is obviously looking for an address in front of our car.  The ‘foreigner’ may irritate us and make us miss the next green light, but as there was no intent involved, the irritation is bearable.

Contrast that with a local hot rod who tries to stop us from reaching the light by swerving into our lane or blocking half a lane when he plans to turn out of our way.  Our anger can boil over in such cases even if we reach the light in time to smoothly drive through.  It is the intent that makes the difference.

Torah.orgRabbi Morechai Dixler of Answers in Genesis says there are three Hebrew words for categories of actions.  (Don’t be impressed, subscribe to the Lifeline blog at Project Genesis at, and you can get a plethora of information as well as thoughtful replies to email.)  So Rabbi Dixler explained to me the three categories are “oness – unavoidable actions, shogeg – careless actions, and mazid – deliberate malicious actions.”  The rabbi says that “oness” of course does not need forgiveness, which makes sense.  If an action is unavoidable it is hardly a fault that can be blamed on the actor.

He goes on to say “shogeg” and “mazid” do require forgiveness.  Even careless actions call for forgiveness because the offender should have been more careful.  Thus mistakes are more easily forgiven, or excused, but still require forgiveness if the offended party is to be at peace in his mind.

It still boils down to either excuses for mistakes or forgiveness for actions for which there is no excuse.  But this is a pretty big distinction.  Like Billy Joel sang, “you’re only human, you’re supposed to make mistakes.”  Not exactly the best theology, as we were created for perfection in the Garden of Eden, but the parents messed up and every parent thereafter has done the same and we are going to do the same.  It’s in our DNA.

Target.jpgAll of us have sinned in the “fallen short of the mark” category (Romans 3:23), the excusable that having tried, we still cannot get it right on our own.  Such offenses still require forgiveness from God and understanding from our associates that we are all the same in this.  We are only human, and even if we are not ‘supposed’ to make mistakes, the fact is that we will.  We will fail to listen when someone needs us.  We will miss the turn and wind up in a fender-bender.  We will not understand when we should, and the offenses will mount up, even those for which we have an equal mountain of excuses.

More significantly though, we will all sin (or should I say have already sinned?) in the “mazid” category, the deliberate actions that offend.  There is not a human alive that has not also done that which is inexcusable.  We may distinguish degrees of sinfulness, e.g. murder seems to be the most heinous to 21st century minds, whereas only coveting or only lying seem smaller and less offensive.  But the lack of excuse makes any violation of the Big Ten just as severe (James 2:10-11).

However, God’s action to forgive us, even when we have done the inexcusable, is His mercy to us!  Beyond that His grace gives us eternal life and other blessings, as mercy is not getting what we do deserve, and grace is getting something we do not deserve.

We are called in this same way to forgive the inexcusable in those who offend us.  It takes deliberate action even when we do not feel “forgiving.”  You see, God never commands us to feel anything.  He only commands actions that can be obeyed, and our feelings are as fickle as sunshine in Kentucky.  They change with whichever way the wind is blowing or whatever stimulus happens to be poking us.  A gentle jab from a lover can make us swoon; the same jab from an adversary can send us into rage

When He says to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), it really does not matter how we feel about the enemy.  We are to act lovingly toward them.  And when He says we are to forgive each other (Matthew 6:12-14; Colossians 3:13), there is no caveat about feeling forgiving.  We are simply to do it.

An interesting word study is to simply read through all the Scripture references that mention “forgive.”  There are only 85 in the KJV, but 109 show up in the ESV, and 136 in the Amplified Bible.  It is an easy thing to do with  Just enter it in the search window with your favorite translation and see what God and His people say about forgiving.

So there is really no excuse for not knowing what the Bible teaches about forgiving, only forgiveness for our ignorance.  😉

Time heals all wounds . . . NOT!

Please forgive my use of an old idiom in the title, the “NOT.”   Then again, I have an excuse, so I prefer your understanding to forgiveness.  Recall last week I noted that when we have excuses, we only need understanding, not forgiveness.  Forgiveness only functions when the offender is without excuse, which is the main reason it is so very hard to forgive.  Besides, “time heals all wounds,” right?  We’ve heard this mantra for generations and it even shows up as a “word” in Merriam-Webster and in!

Sophocles.jpgMost attribute “Time heals all wounds” to Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde: “As tyme him hurt, a tyme doth him cure.”  But such imprecise quotations should take us back to Sophocles, the ancient Greek playwright (495-406 B.C.), who said, “Time eases all things” in Oedipus, the King.  However, as illustrated in the play, this proved false.  Time could not heal the problems in that family!  Even the deaths of the parents and Oedipus’ blinding did not heal the wounds, but only solved the problems in the nation.  The personal injuries followed . . . rather, chased . . . the individuals to their graves.

In the same way time will not heal the wounds in your family, or in your former friendships, or in your job, or in any relationship where you have been deeply injured.  Time does not have the power to heal.  Rather, we may forget some offenses over time, but if reminded of them, we will find the pain and the hurt of the offense is still there, even after 60 years or more!  Like peeling a scab off an old scar, fresh blood will flow again, and we will find the wound is still there.  In some cases, reminders of the impairment will keep it continually fresh even over years passing as if we were constantly picking at the scab, rehearsing every detail of the wrongdoing and sometimes even worsening the offense as we embellish with added “memories” of what happened.

This is reflected in reverse in the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13: “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (13:5-6)  Think of this in contrast to the man who says, “I remember the twelve years ago like it was yesterday.  She had on those red shoes she used to wear.  It was a Saturday morning and was raining.  The neighbor was mowing his lawn in the rain when she knocked at the door, and she said …”  Love does not keep these records.  “Regret cannot change your past; worry cannot change your future.  Only forgiveness can change your past; only trust can change your future.” (Steve Elliott)

But, you may say, what about someone who keeps on offending!?  Must I forgive him/her continually?  Well, yes and no.  If an offender is genuinely repentant of their fault, we are called on by Jesus to continually forgive (Matthew 18:21-22).  The key here is the repentance.

Repentance means a turning away from a former way of doing things.  An alcoholic may repent of his drinking many times, but still fall prey to his weakness and lapse into a drinking binge.  He genuinely repents each time but can only succeed with significant outside help and guidance, e.g. AA or some other program that offers forgiveness as well as assistance to avoid the temptations.

John The BaptistHowever, there are times a prophetic caution should be given such as John the Baptist gave to his hearers when he was attracting big crowds: He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.’” (Luke 3:7-8)  Not exactly what one would expect from today’s seeker-friendly sermons, but led by the Holy Spirit, John addressed the “penitents’” problems.  They were looking for an easy fix that did not involve a real heart change!

James, the brother of Jesus, also understood this.  In his short letter to the dispersed Jews who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem, he repeatedly advised on his theme, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)  A wise man once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but not faith that is alone!” (Dr. Ronald Wright)

So how do we know when a penitent is genuine?  How can we be sure when we forgive we will not get burned . . . again?  Unless the Holy Spirit reveals this to us, we cannot know.  We must proceed on the basis of our understanding and the love God puts in our hearts, sometimes a love intended to be wounded.  Just as Jesus knew He came to go to the cross, there may be people in your life who you must let crucify you.  As painful as that may be, there will be a joy set in front of you that will help you endure (Hebrews 12:2) and continue to forgive as our Lord prayed from his execution stance, “Father, forgive them because they do not realize what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

However, forgiveness, when it comes from your heart, is transformational!  First you will be transformed by your choice to forgive.  You will find the prisoner of your anger or bitterness was never the offender at all.  You were the one bound in the prison of your own acrimony.  Then, free from the bitterness, you will find your forgiveness may be transformational in the life of the offender you forgive, just as Jesus’ forgiveness has transformed you.  Of course, the power of your forgiveness to transform another is entirely dependent on his/her willingness to be forgiven.

As strange as it may seem in a discussion of forgiveness, there are those who will refuse forgiveness.  Either they will take offense at thinking that you think they need your forgiveness, or they will be too full of pride to admit that they know their need, unwilling to be humble and accept your forgiveness.

As strange as this may seem in such an academic exercise, in the “real world” experience of forgiving and being forgiven there are hard choices to make and some may prefer to wait and hope that time will heal the wounds.  Sadly, it will not.  As C.S.Lewis noted in The Great Divorce, All that are in hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

So if you are offended, forgive.  Time will not heal the wound.  Forgiveness will.


Do I Have to Forgive . . . AGAIN!?

ForgivenessForgiveness, again?  How many times should I write about forgiveness?  Well, an apostle asked a similar question to Jesus: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)  So how many times should I write about it?  Well, how many times do we (meaning “I) need to be reminded of it!?

Forgiveness is a lot easier to talk or write about when the offender is me.  I want to be forgiven.  It is another story when I am the offended party.  Then it seems a lot harder to address this topic.  Like C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive . . . And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger.”

You see, forgiveness is much easier in the abstract of asking God to forgive our sins, when in reality we do not think we have that much of which to be forgiven.  We have many excuses to show we were not really so bad, and that God is actually pretty lucky to have someone so nice on His team, so humble that we even ask for forgiveness when we do not really need it.

But that is not really the issue of forgiveness.  When we have an excuse, we only need understanding, not forgiveness.  To forgive is to first suffer an offense and then stop blaming the offender even though he really is at fault.  Let’s look at the dictionary definitions:
• to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
• to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
• to grant pardon to (a person).
• to cease to feel resentment against (e.g. to forgive one’s enemies).
• to cancel an indebtedness or liability of (e.g. to forgive the interest owed on a loan).

To understand the potential offenses God may forgive if we ask Him to do so we just need to look at the Big Ten.  Not the athletes, but the Laws.  (Here we use the Hebrew list; as Matthew Sleeth pointed out, “They owned the real estate first.”)
I. Do not worship any other gods but Yahweh.
II. Do not make carved images to which you bow down and worship.The Ten Commandments Hebrew.jpg
III. Do not misuse Yahweh’s name.
IV. Honor the Sabbath by keeping a special day each week for spiritual development.
V. Make your parents proud of you.
VI. Do not murder (not the same word as “kill,” but that’s for another blog).
VII. Do not commit adultery.
VIII. Do not take what does not belong to you.
IX. Do not lie.
X. Do not crave a thing or person that belongs to someone else.

A lawyer once told me all the laws in all the books in all the world are simply a reflection of our inability to keep these basics.  And we do not just kind of stumble into disobedience of these laws like slipping on a threshold going into a room.  There is no excuse for breaking any of these, but all the volumes of all the law books all over the world reveal simply our attempts to make excuses.  “I did not really lie; it just depends on what your definition of “is” is.”

MoneyA man gave another a loan of several hundred dollars to be repaid in small increments over several months.  The first month the lender received a check in the mail.  The second check came in the third month, and thereafter nothing.  Going to a wise counselor, it was suggested he write a letter telling the debtor he was forgiven in Jesus’ name.  He and the counselor thought maybe the debtor would feel so guilty he would repay the rest.

But as the lender thought about it, he realized he could not accept payment even if the man offered now.  He reported to us as his friends that after he wrote the forgiveness letter the Holy Spirit convicted him that he really had not yet forgiven the debt, and was lying in the letter if he accepted the payment!  When the offer of repayment came up, which the lender had expected, he humbly told the debtor he would not accept the payments.  The debt had been forgiven!  Look back at the definitions of ‘forgive,’ and see if this was not true.

However, what we need to understand is that forgiveness is not only for the benefit of the offender who seems to need it.  Our debtor no longer owed the debt, true enough.  But our lender was under great stress about ‘his’ money until he grasped that he really could forgive the debt.  Once he came to understand the full nature of his forgiveness of the debt, he was the one set free.  He was no longer concerned with getting ‘his’ money back, because it was not ‘his’ anymore.

So let’s not make excuses.  Let’s ask for forgiveness.  Better yet, offer it when it is needed because the offender has no excuse.  Jesus made it clear that our acceptance of His forgiveness was contingent on our understanding of the nature of forgiveness which is only demonstrated when we forgive.  He even made it a caveat in His model prayer: “And forgive us our debts, in the same way that we have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

Please forgive me when we visit this topic again next week. 😉

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” C.S.Lewis