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Those Who Have Gone Before Us...

The first martyrdom of the Christian church occurred shortly after Christ was resurrected. Stephen, one of the chosen seven deacons was stoned to death. Standing at the horrid scene was a young man named Saul. It is believed that he was a main player in the death sentence of this saint. This wretched persecutor continued on his tyrannical quest. “But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off man and woman and put them in prison” (Acts 8:3). "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).

Why am I sharing this story with you as we consider this topic of forgiving others? Some women say they cannot forgive a certain person because of the awfulness of the sin done against them. But let us again consider the story of Saul. Many families went through horrific suffering because of Saul’s persecution. But then, a few years later, they were asked to forgive this same man and love him as a brother. Initially, many in the church refused to forgive him and receive him into the church. However, because two men, Ananias, and Barnabas were willing to be obedient to the Lord and forgive Saul and receive him as a brother, Saul (who changed his name to Paul) became one of the most influential Christians in history.

Paul went on to be a leader of many churches and encouraged the believers to forgive as Christ forgave (Ephesians 4:32). There are many reasons why we refuse to forgive another. One reason is that we can easily minimize our own sinfulness and then look at the sin of our offender as SO MUCH WORSE and unforgivable. Perhaps this is why Paul easily could forgive others. For he knew he was “the worst of all” yet Christ forgave him. Sisters, we all have a sin nature that has the capacity to do atrocious things. It is the grace of God when we are able to offer love and kindness to others. Our wonderful Savior who had NO SIN of any kind chose to forgive ALL of us. How much more should we who are sinners be willing to forgive those who have offended us! “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”(Matthew 6:14).

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