“Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
The man who wrote the beloved hymn “What a Friend we have in Jesus”, Joseph Scriven, was an Irishman who emigrated to Canada. He left his homeland after his fiancé died. In Canada he tutored the children of wealthy families. He got engaged to a woman here in Canada but she too died before their wedding. His broken heart decided he must remain a bachelor for life.
He lived near Port Hope east of Oshawa for some years. He had a practice on Saturday nights of going down to the bars in town before they closed and handing out Gospel pamphlets to the men as they came out of the bars.
One Saturday night in winter he was handing out his tracts and a group of men whose common sense was dulled by drink decided to beat him up. After leaving him bleeding and lying on the ground they staggered away. As Scriven watched the thugs move away he noticed one of them did not have a winter coat to protect himself from the cold. He hastily got up and caught up to the man, took off his coat and gave it to him.
Scriven obeyed the Scripture that says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.” Romans 12:14 (NIV)
In our text for today we read the words of Jesus at the exact moment the Roman guard was using the hammer to drive the nails into His hands and feet. Jesus repeated this prayer several times. What a contrast to what the guard heard from other prisoners he crucified. Note here that Jesus did not forgive the soldiers, He asked His Father in heaven to forgive them.
All the way through Scripture we are taught that forgiveness from God is only given when we confess our sins and repent (1 John 1:9).
We may be sure from passages like Luke 23:48; Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39, that the people there were remorseful and many were forgiven as they repented in this manner. So Jesus’ prayer of blessing on His enemies won the day.
We need to have this attitude towards those who harm us in various ways. Those who gossip about us and spread lies that ruin our reputation, people who betray a confidence, those who let us down just when we need their help and so on. There are many ways we can be hurt by others in life.
Jesus sought good for those who did evil to Him. Are you a follower of Jesus? Then you need to pray for good to come to those who harm you.
In Matthew 5:44 we read where Jesus said, “I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (NIV).
We need to have God teach our enemies that their way is wrong and they need to repent of the harm they cause us. We should urge God to save them from the consequences of their sins.
Can you do this? Can you help your enemy? Ask God to give you a gentle heart towards those who harm you so you can show yourself to be a child of God as Jesus said. Go and bless your enemy today.