Rooted - Forgiveness
One of the greatest hindrances to the growth of our spiritual lives and the experience of peace and freedom is unforgiveness. It acts as a drag on our souls, preventing us from walking in the liberty Jesus has given to us. Unforgiveness also plants seeds of bitterness, resentment and unrighteous anger, which grow into barriers which keep us from experiencing intimacy with God and others.
I am amazed as Jesus hung on the cross, at the very moment he was experiencing the fullness of the sin committed against him that he could pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” What may be even more astonishing is the seeing Stephen, a follower of Jesus, echo this same posture of forgiveness, at the very moment he was being battered by stones thrown in anger.
Given their examples, it seems wise to take time to ponder our own posture toward the sins committed against us, and our willingness to forgive. Meditation - Take a few moments to slowly read the following passage over several times. Let each reading help focus your heart and mind on the word or thought which stands out to you. Ask yourself: What might the Holy Spirit desire to speak to me from this passage? How does my heart react to what I have heard? When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. – Acts 7:54-60 Exploration - Take the balance of the hour to explore with God in prayer the following prompts. Do not rush. Allow the space necessary to listen for the still small voice of God. Do not feel like you have to complete every prompt. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to the places He would desire to explore with you. Talk to him about what you discover as you follow him into these places.
What feelings and emotions rise up in you when you consider the sin committed against Stephen?
What was it that gave Stephen the capacity to pray, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them?”
What sin has been committed against you that you have struggled to forgive?
What, if anything, do you fear it might cost you if you choose to forgive?
What effect has this unforgiveness had on your experience of peace, freedom and joy?
What impact has it had on your capacity to experience intimacy with God and others?
What would change if you were able to extend forgiveness to the one who has sinned against you?
Have explored these things, are you willing to forgive?
What help would you need from the Holy Spirit?
Ending Your Time - When you are done, spend the last five minutes in silent prayer, simply allowing yourself to soak in the freedom of the forgiveness you have received.