“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59–60, AV)
A contemporary song, written and sung by Matthew West, is titled “Forgiveness.” It is based upon a true story of a woman named Renee who lost her 20-year-old daughter when hit by a drunk driver. The bitterness that Renee experienced enslaved her. She needed freedom from the bitterness, and found no way to escape it until she confronted the drunk driver in prison and forgave him. This set her free from the bitterroot of anger.
Here in the martyrdom of Stephen, we see a supernatural act of forgiveness. As the Jewish religious authorities are stoning him to death, Stephen with a loud voice calls upon God to forgive those who are stoning him. I will be honest with you. I am not sure that this would be the response I would have had in a moment like that. I can only hope that it would be.
The problem is that the flesh does not want to forgive. Yet, the Spirit desires us to forgive. The Scriptures command us to forgive others. The Spirit gives us the ability to forgive others.
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to give away, but it is essential if we want to live in victory. Yet it is so difficult and seemingly so unnatural. Of this forgiveness, West wrote the following.
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have to say the word…
Forgiving is not something we can do in the flesh. It is something that is supernatural, something from God. It is only possible through the working of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. However, forgiveness is essential if we are to live in freedom from the bitterroot of anger. We cannot allow bitterness to destroy our lives. No, it is not easy, but it is essential to live in victory.
Are you struggling to forgive someone today? Perhaps you should consider God’s grace towards you. If you are a true believer, He has forgiven you completely for every sin against Him. Jesus paid the price for your forgiveness by dying on the cross. When we consider the level of God’s infinite forgiveness of us, should we not seek His grace to receive the power to forgive others also. Forgiveness is a supernatural work and one that sets us free to live in high victory.