Why Forgive?July 1, 2017
Life can seem unfair at times, and we can sometimes feel as if we’re receiving more than our fair share of wrongs and injustices on the road of life. I want to share with you a personal story in which God asked me to be at peace with someone who did not desire peace with me — and how my obedience even in the face of his unpleasant response brought me blessings and joy! I believe the same can be true for each one of us when we choose to “bless and curse not” and to love and forgive even our enemies.
Years ago, I visited another church in our city to hear a special speaker who had come from afar. That evening at the meeting, the local church I was visiting announced they would be starting a building program. As I sat there, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart to sow a sacrificial seed into their new building program. It was a time when we desperately needed money for our own building program, so anything I sowed would be sacrificial. However, the amount the Lord put in my heart was significant.
What made it even harder for me to give this gift was that this church had acted maliciously toward our church in the past. They had lied about us, scoffed at us, and even wished for us to leave. And now the Lord was telling me to sow a large gift into this same church!
Throughout that entire service, I argued with the Lord. The issue really wasn’t the money, although our church could have used the money ourselves at that moment. I was wrestling with giving a gift to a church that had treated us with contempt for so long. Finally, the Spirit of God asked me, Are you willing to sow a seed for peace with this church?
That clinched it! I pulled my checkbook out of my pocket to write what I considered to be a sizable gift for this other church. Writing that check was difficult, but once it was written, my heart simply flooded with joy because I had been obedient. No joy compares with the joy that comes from obeying God!
One week later, the pastor to whom I gave the gift was at a meeting with his staff and church leaders. The pastor told his leaders, “Look at this puny little check Pastor Rick gave us! Couldn’t he have done any better than this?”
When I heard how he viewed the sizable gift I’d given, I was shocked. But when I heard what this pastor did next, I was literally stunned. He devoted the next part of his staff meeting to discussing all the things he didn’t like about me and our church. He poked fun at us, ridiculed us, mocked us, and put us down in front of his people. Instead of being thankful for the gift we gave, he once more demonstrated disrespect and contempt for us.
When I heard about what happened, it hurt so badly that it cut deep into my heart. How could anyone say the gift we gave was puny? It would be considered significant in any nation of the world. But what hurt the most was that the pastor had put us down and publicly made fun of us in front of his staff and leadership. I remember feeling as if I had been spit on — and as the years ensued, this same pastor “spit” on us many more times.
I realize this man’s disdain of us, and especially his public disdain, reflected poorly on him more so than on Denise and me and our work. But the pain that was inflicted by his attitude toward us was really hard to bear.
How about you? Has anyone ever “spit” in your face? Can you think of an instance in your life when you did something good for someone, but that person didn’t appreciate what you did?
I think nearly everyone has felt taken advantage of and “spit on” at some point or another. But imagine how Jesus must have felt the night He was taken to the high priest where He was literally spat on by the guards and temple police! For three years, Jesus had preached, taught, and healed the sick. He brought Heaven to earth as He demonstrated the love of the Father.
But now He was being led like a sheep to the spiritual butcher of Jerusalem, the high priest Caiaphas, and to the scribes and elders who had assembled to wait for His arrival. The religious leaders had charged Jesus with the crime of declaring Himself the Messiah. Jesus replied by telling them that they would indeed one day see Him sitting on the right hand of power and coming with clouds of glory (see Matthew 26:64). Upon hearing this, the high priest ripped his clothes and screamed, “Blasphemy!” as all the scribes and elders lifted their voices in anger, demanding that Jesus die for His words (v. 66). Then these religious scribes and elders did the unthinkable! Matthew 26:67,68 says, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands….”
Notice that it wasn’t just a few who spit in his face that night; the Bible says, “…They spit in his face.…” The word “they” refers to all the scribes and elders who were assembled for the meeting that night. One scholar notes that there could have been 100 or more men in that crowd! And one by one, each of these so-called spiritual leaders walked up to Jesus and spit in His face!
In that culture and time, spitting in one’s face was considered to be the strongest thing you could do to show utter disgust, repugnance, dislike, or hatred for someone. When someone spattered saliva on another person’s face, that spit was meant to humiliate, demean, debase, and shame that person. To make it worse, the offender would usually spit hard and close to the person’s face, making it all the more humiliating.
By the time Caiaphas and his scribes and elders had finished taking turns spitting on Jesus, their spit was most likely dripping down from His forehead into His eyes; dribbling down His nose, His cheekbones, and His chin; and even oozing down onto His clothes. This was an extremely humiliating scene! Their hideous conduct was something Jesus definitely didn’t deserve.
But these religious leaders didn’t stop with just humiliating Jesus. After spitting on Him, they each doubled up their fists and whacked Him violently in the face! Matthew 26:67 says, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him.…” The word “buffet” is a Greek word that means to strike with the fist. It is normally used to picture a person who is violently beaten.
As if it wasn’t insulting enough to spit on Jesus, approximately 100 men viciously struck Him with their fists and slapped Him with the palms of their hands. Not only was this brutal — it was sadistic! Humiliating Jesus with their spit and curses didn’t satisfy the hatred of these men; they wouldn’t be satisfied until they knew He had been physically assaulted.
It appears that these scribes and elders were so paranoid about Jesus getting more attention than them that they simply wanted to destroy Him. Every time they spit on Him, they were spitting on the anointing. Every time they struck Him, they were leveling a punch against the anointing. They hated Jesus and the anointing that operated through Him to such an extent that they voted to murder Him. What a strange way to render “thanks” to One who had done so much for them!
When I become disappointed at the way others respond to me, I often think of what happened to Jesus on that night when He came before these Jewish leaders. John 1:11 tells us, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Although these men who spit on and hit Jesus refused to acknowledge Him, He still went to the Cross and died for them. His love for them was unwavering — unshaken and unaffected by their wrong actions.
As you think of how people have wronged you, does it affect your desire to love them? Is your love for those unkind people unwavering, unshaken, and unaffected? Or have conflicts revealed you have a fickle love that you quickly turn off when people don’t respond to you the way you wished they would?
The same Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus now lives in you. Just as the Spirit of God empowered Jesus to love people consistently, regardless of what they did or didn’t do, the Holy Spirit can empower you to do the same. So why don’t you take a few minutes today to pray about and forgive the people who have let you down?
I remember the struggle I personally experienced sowing that large seed into that other pastor’s building program. But I can also vividly recall the great sense of peace, joy, and freedom that came when I blessed him and his church — and later completely forgave him not just for his lack of gratitude, but also for his lack of respect for me and our ministry.
This month, we’re offering Denise’s “Redemption Collection” that you can read about in the enclosed flyer. Her teachings and insights are so impacting and life-changing. I wanted to share with you this teaching on forgiving others in the face of hurtful, humiliating insults. Jesus experienced the insults and modeled the forgiveness — and then He laid down His life for us lovingly and willingly. He was showing us the way to live the highest type of life possible. I pray you’ve been blessed by what you read.
If there’s any specific way Denise and I and our team can pray for you, please be sure to let us know. It really is one of our highest honors to stand in faith with you for the answers you seek.
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families