Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | June 6, 2013


Many would point to the temptations that Christ endured at the hands of Satan in the wilderness as His greatest temptations. Jesus was hungry and tired, and his physical body was weak due to 40 days and nights of fasting. Satan tried to take advantage of the situation. Yet Jesus passed the test.

But personally, I believe there was a particular temptation that Christ endured which was even more severe.

As Jesus was hanging on the cross, nails through his hands, blood pouring out of his veins, a crown of thorns pressed upon His head, beaten beyond recognition and mercilessly mocked, He uttered those famous words that people from all walks of life, from every socio-economic status, from every race, reflect on with amazement. They are words that, in and of themselves, give strong testimony that this Jesus is the Son of God:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

If Satan could have caused Jesus to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness in His heart toward those who treated him so unjustly, it would be sin. His blood would then be rendered powerless to forgive and remit sin, for the “perfect, unblemished sacrifice” would no longer be unblemished.

Although Jesus was tempted in this way…although he was an innocent man that was reviled and crucified by the wicked, he did not lash out or revile back, but entrusted Himself to the one who judges righteously. And He forgave them.

Jesus overcame the temptation to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness in His heart. The result? Three days later, God raised Him from the dead, giving Him the power to forgive sin and offer eternal redemption to those who would put their faith in Him.

Bitterness and unforgiveness didn’t gain a foothold in Jesus. Through God, He found the strength to forgive. So can we.

There are all sorts of heart-wrenching things that happen to us, and there are the people we remember behind the pain:

– The drunk driver who killed my child

– The spouse who beat me

– The parent who neglected me

– The relative who abused me

– The church that ignored me

– The person who sued me

– The friend who slandered me

– The ministry that deceived me

And the list goes on

We all have a choice to make; a choice that can very well determine the outcome of the rest of our lives.

I personally know of someone in my family who went through a divorce 30 years ago. The hurt that accompanied it was deep, and those of us who have experienced divorce know that such hurt lingers many years after; it takes time to heal. Like with many hurtful experiences, there is the temptation to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness. Although it may be necessary to relive or “talk through” the painful experience for the purpose of one’s healing, it becomes dangerous when one continues to hold onto the offense for an extended time.

With my family member, it started small but it was allowed to fester. And now, 30 years later, it consumes this person’s life. Ever meet people like that? One may wonder, “What painful experience causes such bitterness to take root in a person’s heart?” It isn’t a painful experience in and of itself. Rather, it is bitterness and unforgiveness that is allowed to fester and grow over time. As the bitterness grows, it not only affects every area of the life of the person harboring it, but it also affects those around him or her. It’s never pleasant to be around a chronically angry and bitter person (Hebrews 12:15)

There’s a better way. Jesus, having been tempted as we are, can relate to our weakness and pain, and can supply us with the strength and grace we need to let go and forgive those who have hurt us. It’s only then that our soul can live and love freely.

In closing, I want to discuss another angle on the subject of forgiveness. Rather than someone having offended you in some way, what if you were the one who hurt someone by your actions? Have you ever done something and find it hard to forgive yourself? I have.

I recall speaking to my pastor about a particular incident. After explaining the situation and what I did, and how I was beating myself up over it, he looked me in the eye and said, “Harry, you generously extend grace to others for their blunders, but you don’t extend the same grace to yourself; that’s a double standard.”

He was right.

If you did something you deeply regret, it’s normal, and even healthy, to grieve over it. But for some of us, that grieving may move onto beating ourselves up over it. If you’ve hurt someone, going to them and apologizing can help, but one cannot depend on this to bring peace to one’s heart. What if the person doesn’t receive your apology? Worse yet, what if the person you hurt has passed away?

The root reason why we beat ourselves up over something is because we think we’ve done something that’s beyond the reach of God’s grace. It’s through a clear revelation of God’s love and grace to us in Christ that we find the strength to not only forgive others, but to forgive ourselves.

Jesus said to forgive others as God has forgiven us. God forgives freely those who belong to Christ. Therefore, we should do likewise to others. And don’t forget to include yourself in the mix.

When David was exposed for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah, he was deeply grieved and demonstrated a repentant heart before God, agreeing with God that he sinned. From reading the psalms, one can understand how deep his grieving was. What David did was indeed horrible. And he did experience consequences for his sin. Nonetheless, David ultimately came through, rejoicing in the God who extended the grace of forgiveness to him. And David was empowered to rejoice in his salvation once again:

” Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your sin, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm of David 103: 1-5)

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

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