So why would my friend have a hard time forgiving Paul? Well, Paul did a lot of very mean things to people! Before becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul zealously hunted down Christians for arrest, imprisonment, and even death. Paul approved of and witnessed the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, by stoning. Paul was feared, and I’m sure hated, by many early Christians.
It is easy for us now to think it should be easy to forgive Paul. If, however, a friend or family member of yours suffered or died because of Paul, you might have a harder time forgiving him.
My hardships are much less than those the people Paul persecuted faced. Yet I’ve been carrying a bit of anger in my heart recently. I’ve been wrestling with letting go and forgiving some of the deceit, meanness, rudeness, and just plain inconsideration for others I am observing in our country now. Jesus said if we harbor anger in our heart, it is akin to murder. Jesus said His disciples need to forgive our enemies. Jesus didn’t say wait until they turn their lives around and start treating you right. (Jesus did not let say to let people be abused though.)
The cure to my heart problem? It is in obeying the same wise message Jesus shared with His first disciples. Jesus called anyone who would follow Him to repent and to forgive. It is not easy for me, but I’m working on it.
How about you? Any hardness of heart that repentance might soften? Is there anyone you need to forgive? Might doing so bring some peace to your own heart? It is not easy. It means dying to self. Repenting and forgiving are not what our society encourages. But they are what Jesus calls His disciples to do.