A Prayer of Forgiveness
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27–28
In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to integrate an all-white public elementary school in the American South. Every day for months, federal marshals escorted Ruby past a mob of angry parents shouting curses, threats, and insults at her. Safely inside, she sat in a classroom alone with Barbara Henry, the only teacher willing to instruct her while parents kept their children from attending school with Ruby.
Noted child psychologist Robert Coles met with Ruby for several months to help her cope with the fear and stress she experienced. He was amazed by the prayer Ruby said every day as she walked to school and back home. “Please, God, forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing” (see Luke 23:34).
The words of Jesus spoken from the cross were stronger than the hatred and insults hurled at Him. In the most agonizing hours of His life, our Lord demonstrated the radical response He taught His followers: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . . . Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27–28, 36).
This remarkable approach is possible only as we consider the powerful love Jesus has given us—love stronger than even the deepest hatred.
Ruby Bridges helped show us the way.
Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive [someone] who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). In that day, if you forgave a person three times, you were considered magnanimous. So Peter must have thought he was a super saint to forgive an offender seven times. Jesus corrected him, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (v. 22). Jesus is saying that when it comes to forgiving another, you can’t keep score. We never reach a limit when we can say we have forgiven enough. Although forgiveness doesn’t excuse an offense, we can choose to “be kind and compassionate to one another, [forgive] each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).
Is there someone who needs your forgiveness today, yet again?