Can you imagine leading a people who constantly opposed you? Who constantly accused you of trying to harm them? Who longed for the benefits of the land of their bondage and who found freedom too burdensome? This was Moses’ experience.
But every time the people opposed Moses, he had the same response: he fell facedown. He fell facedown before God and waited for God to speak. Moses knew a secret that we could all learn when faced with opposition. Humility.
What does that have to do with forgiveness? Everything. It shows Moses’ heart towards people, his security in his identity as a child of God, and his awareness of who he is without God.
The underbelly of unforgiveness is a form of pride. Unforgiveness says, “How dare anyone hurt me or treat me that way? Who do they think they are?” But underneath those questions is a more pointed thought, “I would never treat anyone that way.” But there isn’t a perfect person who responds perfectly in all situations. Careless remarks can hurt just as bad as deliberate remarks.
It would look pretty silly if every time someone opposed us, we dropped to our face in front of them. But what if we trained our hearts to immediately take that posture? Can unforgiveness stand if the heart is bowed low before God?
Moses knew this secret. He also knew the secret of Luke 6:27-36, which contains Jesus’ teachings on loving your enemies. This passage has the theme of forgiveness woven into it because we can’t love our enemies if we harbor resentment and bitterness towards those who wound us.
Do good to those who hate you. How? What? Why? I’ve failed at this spectacularly. Especially when I’m face to face with this person. Can I tell you a secret? On the days I do good to someone who can’t stand me, I experience a hop in my heart and a skip in my step. I feel lighter, happier, and more joy filled. But it’s hard.
Our natural inclination is to withhold good from someone who doesn’t deserve it. But do we really get to decide if someone “deserves” good? We can’t go around with a naughty or nice list. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, and your neighbor is anyone whom you have contact with: enemies or friends.
Bless those who curse you. If doing good is about our actions towards our enemies, then blessing them is about our words. How will you speak to your enemy today? Will it be with courtesy or contempt? What about your thoughts? Thoughts are words unspoken, and thoughts eventually make their way into the world.
The power of life and death is in the tongue and what we speak is the overflow of our hearts. Speak words of life. Speak with gentleness, watch your tone, and put on a smile. This will take superhuman strength, but if you know Christ as your Savior and Lord, then you have His strength and power living in you. Use it.
Pray for those who mistreat you. Prayer is our number one tool that God gives us, but it’s often the last tool we reach for. Why? Because when we begin to pray in earnest for someone one of two things happens: we develop compassion for them and/or we see our own weaknesses. Neither one of these things are wrong, but they make us uncomfortable because they challenge our secret resentments.
At times, we won’t know how to pray, but we can follow Paul’s example in Romans where he groaned his prayers. Or we can turn to the Psalms and see how David prayed when he was beset with troubles. He poured out his heart–ugliness and all–but then he turned his heart towards praise.
Have a generous heart towards them. Be helpful. If they need something, step in and offer your assistance. Being generous with your time, your compassion, and your interest in someone’s life paves the way for love to flow from your heart to theirs. But what if someone takes advantage of you over and over again?
Yes, boundaries are important. Time to heal is necessary. Trust is not the same as forgiveness. The key in all of this is to stay close to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit lead you. It also means that you don’t allow one horrific experience to cloud your judgement that all people are out to hurt you. Being generous means entering into relationships with an open heart, not judging a person based on a past experience. Be wise, but gentle.
Be merciful. God is full of mercy. We only have to read the book of Numbers to see example after example of the Israelites treating God and Moses with contempt and God not destroying them. Mercy is defined as not getting what you deserve. Your enemy might deserve your contempt, hatred, and slander. But to show mercy means that you don’t give them that.
Mercy takes the high road, not out of pride, but out of love. Love for God and for people. But in order to be able to extend that kind of mercy, you must receive it for yourself. When was the last time you fell facedown before God because you did or said something so wretched that you knew without a shadow of doubt that you didn’t deserve his mercy. Yet, He gives it to you anyway as you humble yourself before Him.
Forgiveness brings us full circle with humility in its center. In order for us to receive forgiveness from God, we must first humble ourselves before God. And then, we can extend that forgiveness to others.
Loving our enemies finds its roots in developing a lifestyle of walking in forgiveness.
We develop a forgiveness mindset by doing good, blessing others, praying for our enemies, cultivating a generous heart, and extending mercy.
Always, always, always rely on and look to the Holy Spirit for direction and guidance. It’s through His strength not your own that makes the impossible possible.