By: Norm Rasmussen
Have you ever wondered WHY Jesus Christ asked the Father to forgive those who were responsible for crucifying Him. It's an important question and here are some thoughts on the matter.
It reads in Luke 23:34 (NKJV): Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
The question also then becomes: Did the Father forgive them? Maybe temporarily; I'm obviously speculating, but I believe God wants us understanding something that is not so obvious to the casual reader. I believe God is trying to communicate to disciples of Jesus Christ today that forgiving those who have hurt us is the wisest decision we can make about such people. Forgiveness is a spiritual weapon God gives us that helps protect us from the devil robbing, stealing and destroying joy and peace and faith in our lives. The first half of John 10:10 (NKJV) tells us that:
"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
No thief breaks into your house so you can purposely enjoy living life more joyfully. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that the "thief" Jesus is talking about in this verse is Satan (and his demon helpers). Jesus is also talking about SPIRITUAL life, and spiritual life more ABUNDANTLY. Satan is looking for any and every way he can - day in and day out - moment in and moment out - to find some way of making your life miserable, and more miserable than in the past, especially IF you are a born again Christian. Thus you know Satan's will for your life every moment of every second since you chose to make Jesus Christ your Savior and Lord, because Jesus tells you Satan's will in John 10:10 is: To rob, steal and destroy.
What is one of Satan's most favorite ways of making you more miserable? Use someone to hurt you. Especially someone very close to you. He always gets more mileage out of someone close to you hurting you than someone you don't personally know that well. And once that person hurts us (depending on WHY they hurt us of course), we do not remain neutral in our feelings toward that person, do we? We either want to avoid the person after that, and again depending upon the situation...somehow get "even" with the individual and see them hurt like they hurt us.
Maybe an institution of some sort has hurt you. How do you "get back" at an institution, say, such as the government? Or maybe someone who is now dead? There are situations that can pop up in life that are not so easy to "get back at." Yet that is neither here nor there, for the purpose of this writing. God wants us realizing that being hurt can give Satan the legal right to "rob us" to one degree or another of the very best life we can possibly expect prior to either going to heaven and/or receiving our glorified body when Jesus comes back for us.
If we hold anger toward someone long enough, resentment begins to set in: In both our mind and spirit (and then can begin to rob our physical well-being through sickness and disease if not dealt with sooner than later). There is little difference between resentment and bitterness to Satan. Either of the two are fertile grounds for stuffed anger and sometimes not so stuffed anger toward the person (or institution) who has hurt us...IF you and I don't use the spiritual weapon God has given us, and that weapon is what I would call a God rope. God tells us to tie a rope around that wild beast and force it to stay inside a corral until it becomes tamed -- until it understands WE are the one in control -- not the angry beast controlling US.
This "God rope" goes by a different name in the Bible. God calls it: Forgiveness. It relinquishes our demand to be the vindictive judge and executioner of another who has hurt us -- who has done wrong to us (or a loved one) -- and by an act of our will, we mentally turn this person or institution over to God and place our trust in Him to deal correctly with the situation. God rewards us for doing so by kindling our anger so it won't give legal opportunity for Satan to use it against us.
Thus forgiveness is a spiritual weapon also called agape love that God gives humanity to kindle the affects of anger Satan would try to use to bring even more pain to them (more than just the initial pain that the offense has caused), because here is what Satan doesn't want any of us coming to the realization of. Harboring anger very long toward another (or an institution) gives Satan the legal right to somehow "rob us" when we have our door securely locked to him otherwise if we don't have our door securely fortified with Forgiveness Reinforcements. Born again believers don't need to put an innocent lamb's blood above their doors anymore to keep demons of Satan's wrath from visiting them, but they had better learn quickly to execute the wisdom of having their doors and windows reinforced with Christ's Forgiveness Reinforcements at all times or else suffer needless pain God wants them to remain free from.
God's weapon of forgiveness He exhorts believers to use that kindles our anger against those who have wrongly hurt them doesn't cancel out the wrath God will execute against them in due season for their sin(s) against us. Every person who has wrongly hurt you who doesn't receive the forgiveness of God through Christ Jesus for it before they die will be eternally tormented for the wrong that person has done to you. Rest assured of that fact.
If you are a student of the Bible, you will find no place else written in the Bible where God clearly tells us that if we are angered, we are to QUICKLY give that situation to God to help us deal with it - [engaging in forgiveness and praying for that person if we are wise] - otherwise the temptation to sin against that person by taking matters into our own hands will empower Satan to have influence in our lives that God is clearly telling us is not good for us:
"Be angry, and do not sin": Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 NKJV)
An angry leader of a nation can adversely affect everyone living in that nation. An angry CEO can adversely affect every person working in that company. An angry parent can destroy not only a marriage, but adversely affect the children in that marriage and others who are acquainted with that family. An angry child can affect an entire school, and the family and friends of that family and all the people living in that community and communities beyond...by that angry child taking a weapon to his/her school and killing other innocent people. Satan - in his anger toward God because God set into motion punishment for Satan's selfish attitude - has affected this entire planet for evil. He has corrupted angels in the unseen spirit realm with his anger and vents his anger especially against born again Christians and their families as often as God lets him get away with it, and Satan gets away with a lot more than God wants him getting away with if we aren't tapping into the spiritual weapons God has provided for us to hinder Satan's plans against us. (Although, God has clearly let Satan know that He is going to turn all of Satan's actions against born again Christians ultimately into their eternal good if they don't quit their personal relationship with Jesus Christ by letting their discouragement transpose into resentment and bitterness be a tool Satan tries to use to destroy their personal relationship with Jesus Christ).
Never forget -- Satan is constantly looking for ways to hammer away at our thought life to try to get us to be somehow at odds with our heavenly Father and our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Helper who helps us remain connected with both of Them...who is known as the priceless Holy Spirit (the third Person of the eternal Godhead).
Anger is a weapon Satan uses against us with the full intent of breeding creations much like himself: Beings who will be punished for eternity just like God has now determined that he will be punished for eternity. Truly - misery loves company. And if Satan can't co-reign with Jesus Christ in eternity like born again Christians will have the high privilege of doing, then no one else should have that opportunity either. Dear one, Satan is DRIVEN to try to do everything in his power to keep you from your spiritual inheritance available to you in Christ Jesus our Lord while you live this side of heaven. God tells us so in 2 Timothy 3:12:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (KJV).
"Persecution" used in the above context means that you are not going to skate through this life as a born again Christian without having Satan's claw marks all over you prior to going home to Jesus Christ. That gives none of us the warm-fuzzies, yet it's a painful reality in the life of every born again believer I've met and has walked with Jesus for any length of time. Hence - otherwise God wouldn't have warned us that we are going to need spiritual weapons He has provided us with to counter Satan's relentless attacks against us.
Taming the raging beast of anger has nothing to do with feelings either. You need to rope this raging beast and get it into God's corral just as fast as you can. The sooner the beast is in the corral -- in the cage made up of God's holy angels -- the less you have to be concerned about it harming you. Jesus forgave those who were responsible for crucifying Him as the wisest offensive maneuver God has given humanity to show us the wisdom of dealing with anger before it tramples us. Forgiveness is both an offensive weapon as well as a defensive weapon. Jesus knows full well how to use this weapon and when we just can't figure out quite how to use it, or don't feel like using it, [which the anger beast absolutely LOVES!] we have His promise He will help us lasso the wild anger beast. His promise is given to us in Philippians 4:13:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (NKJV).
I can do all things God wants me to do through the power of none other than God Himself, keep in mind.
Well...I either can or I can't. What will my decision be when my hurt is so painful toward the one who has hurt me? Let the raging beast of anger rob me of my spiritual life (blessing), or force the anger beast to submit to my WISE authority in Christ by me taking control of it and rendering in powerless against me?
We can justify that the raging beast doesn't DESERVE our countering it's rage by using the weapon of forgiveness against it to nullify it's harm to us, and the beast doesn't care one bit. The beast will trample you no matter how you feel about it. The beast only fears one thing. It fears that you might use a "God rope" around its neck to keep it from trampling you more easily and then keeping it corralled -- keeping it penned up in a God cage where it can't hurt you.
Let's talk a bit more about feelings -- Satan's favorite strategy to keep us from making right, wise choices...especially our making the choice to forgive when everything in us wants to do otherwise. Try to imagine this if you can. Do you think God the Father "felt" like sending His ONLY begotten Son, Jesus Christ, [the second Person of the eternal Godhead by the way, who has all power as does the Father and the Holy Spirit -- who always was and always will be all powerful just like the Father and the Holy Spirit] to leave His side in heaven and come down to this sin-contaminated planet called earth to live and die the painful death He died on the cross to take full punishment for all our sins so we wouldn't have to pay for them for an eternity in hell? "Feelings" were not even in the equation. "It's the ONLY way, Son. If there was any OTHER way, I'd not ask You to do this."
So if any of us try to convince ourselves that "God just doesn't understand my pain of being hurt," ...Uhhhhhhhhhhhh...it doesn't hold water with God - sorry.
God gives us a second weapon besides forgiveness to harness the wild beast of anger that wants to rob us of peace, joy and blessings to various degrees in this life. This second weapon, among other more important things most likely, ultimately lays up for us rewards in heaven. God isn't asking us to pray down wrath on our enemies either. By His Spirit, He's hoping we'll understand that we'll wisely pray for our enemies as the Holy Spirit leads us to pray for them. Our prayers for our enemy may be the very thing God is looking for to bring about the salvation and deliverance to that enemy of ours. It can be difficult to believe for us, but God died so our enemy might share eternal life with Him just as much as God died so you and I could share eternal life with him. (God says some things to us about dealing with those we really don't care for that we need to meditate deeply on to allow the Holy Spirit to give us greater illumination of in Matthew 5:43-48).
Pray for your enemies. (See: Matthew 5:44)
Jesus never asks us to do anything He isn't or wasn't Himself willing to do. He CHOSE to kindle His anger (which actually may have kept Him from sinning -- seriously, I believe) toward those responsible for crucifying Him prior to His dying on the cross...but that His anger toward them only got delayed until the Judgment Day (unless they asked His forgiveness prior to their dying, just like you and I have to do to have our sin nullified prior to the Judgment Day).
Keep something in balance in all of this. Satan and the demons who serve him are no longer qualified for either God's forgiveness, nor yours or my forgiveness. They crossed over a line a long time ago with God and God DOES draw a line when He decides it needs to be drawn with His created beings (humans and angels). We neither forgive Satan and the demons who serve him nor do we pray for them. God does not nor does He expect us to. (We do pray to do battle against them however. They are God's full-blown enemy as well as ours, and they will remain so for all eternity).
Perhaps you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ, yet. The Bible assures us that once we die, God's forgiveness for our sins while we were alive on this planet will no longer be granted by Him. It is on THIS side of eternity His forgiveness for our sins is available to us. Not once we die. Then it will be too late. Your heart beat is not promised to you tomorrow. God may draw YOUR line for living any longer before the sun comes up tomorrow, so don't put off your decision to have God erase the penalty for your sins another moment. Get your record of sins God is keeping for the Judgment Day taken care of NOW while your heart is still beating and your brain is functioning. You are fortunate to still have the chance -- the opportunity. Don't squander the opportunity. God didn't give you a chance to live this life to squander the potential God has waiting for you in eternity, yet He loves you enough to let YOU make the choice of what you're going to do about your sins against Him before your heart stops beating. Make no mistake...you WILL give an account to God on the Judgment Day for your sins against Him, and you won't like His conclusion, if you don't accept the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for you on the cross to have your sins against God cancelled prior to your dying.
Learn to use God's rope of forgiveness as often as someone hurts you, my friend. This life is difficult enough as it is. We don't need to add to the difficulty of it by self-inflicting ourselves with MORE, NEEDLESS pain.
God lets us know anger is normal, as long as we control it...and we don't let IT control US. Huge difference. We initially control it by using God's weapon of forgiveness. We help KEEP it controlled by using the wise weapon of Holy Spirit led prayer, when it either tries to jump over the corral or break out of the cage, and possibly when it's trying to affect the life of another innocent victim or victims in some cases.
I'm going to end this by going back to that moment in time when Jesus asked the Father to forgive His crucifiers. I sense that there is much more that God won't reveal to us at this time concerning the matter, and only until we get on the other side with Him will we be given a greater understanding of it totally, except this I feel I can share. I truly believe it was more difficult for the Father to forgive those who cruelly crucified Jesus - who WAS and IS fully God as much as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit is - than it will ever be for us humans to have to forgive others who have done us wrong. God fully understands how hard it is for us to forgive certain ones who don't deserve our forgiveness and certainly not HIS...yet He commands us to forgive, or He has assured us He won't forgive us. Salvation is free for all on this planet while they are alive, but with it comes at least one very painful requirement: We have to forgive, which makes it far MORE than just a weapon to fight off Satan. It is a command, and not a command given to take lightly. God never gave us a command we couldn't possibly obey, nor wasn't good for us. Through Christ's help, we can obey every command God has given us.
Among other things, this life is a TEST for each us to some degree in some fashion, and God oversees the testing we can be confident, however much pain and anguish He has to deal with because of how severely sin has contaminated His created beings. The most difficult test most of us will have to take and God wills we pass will be the test of having to forgive someone who in our mind least deserves it. Among other reasons, in passing this test, it reminds Satan that with all the wisdom, power and beauty God originally created him with, rebellion against God was more attractive to him than being humbly obedient and appreciative to God. God is carefully observing the very same two things in the deepest part of each of us. Honestly, I have to say in the deepest part of me is a sinful seed I was born with that is ever-trying to sprout to tempt me to rebel against God by trying to do things my way whether God likes it or not. Jesus knew all about it when He prayed His prayer to the Father on the cross:
Father - please offer Norm forgiveness of His rebellious nature against Us. He hasn't a clue of what you and I and the Holy Spirit know about Him. Don't hold against him what he deserves because of his selfish rebellion. Take your anger - your wrath - against Him out on Me. Surely You see some speck of potential in him worth redeeming, in light of eternity, that Satan and the other fallen angels stopped having, by an act of their own free will."
Because each of us are born with a sinful nature, God says in the Bible, we each have a seed of rebellion in us that screams to do things OUR way...whether God likes it or not. (Oh sure ... if we can keep God from being upset at us for having our own way - so much the better, we delusionally rationalize). Our very worst enemy isn't Satan, dear reader. He's our number two enemy. Our number one enemy is the seed of rebellion each of us were born with, thanks to Adam and Eve sinning, which now means we inherit their sinful nature at our birth, and without seriously humbling ourselves and admitting to ourselves that we need not only a Savior who can save us from the penalty of our sins because it's impossible for us to have them forgiven any other way that meets God's demands, but we also need God's help to keep that seed of rebellion caged up so we can recognize Truth and express our desire to OBEY Truth...our seed of rebellion knows easily how to get out of the cage. Satan will assist in helping it get out of the cage, in fact! If we let our guard down for a moment, the gatekeeper of temptation slips his key into the cage and opens the door for our rebellion seed to freely escape...time and time again.
God knows what He was talking about when he recorded in the Bible for us: Matthew 6:13
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Though there are numerous excellent writings on anger, here are a couple of shorter ones that can help readers get a better understanding on this important topic: