Called to be like Christ, we are to forgive like He forgives. But what if the act in need of forgiveness is unthinkable? For instance, how do you handle a man who has done you or your loved ones harm? What if he is responsible for their deaths?
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 9:13-17, ESV
This Saul is the one who would take the name Paul. He is the same Paul who wrote about Jesus’ grace and forgiveness and preached it at every opportunity. However, as the broken Saul, he didn’t just need forgiveness from God. He needed forgiveness from God’s people. After all, he was responsible for their persecution and at least one death. God’s people had to forgive him in order for Saul to become the Paul we know about from the New Testsment. It all started with Ananias.
Ananias had every reason to be afraid of Saul. Who could blame him for distrusting the one who came bearing papers to round up Christians? Yet this is what God asked Ananias to do. God asked Anaias to forgive Saul. More importantly, God asked Ananias to trust Him even when the circumstances would lead one to reject Saul and his supposed conversion. Forgiveness often involves risk on our parts. And just as He asked Ananias to trust Him, God asks the same of us.
Ananias did trust God. He put Saul’s past in the past. Then Ananias went forward in the present for the benefit of Saul’s and the Church’s future. Apart from Ananias going to Saul and healing him of his blindness, we don’t know much else about the man. Saul, now known as Paul, described him as a devout man in Acts 22. That’s all we have. There was no fame or fortune in that decision to trust God and forgive Saul. There was no side benefit. There was simply obedience to the Savior whom Ananias loved. Ananias risked his life for that love.
The Bible commands us over and over again to be a forgiving people. We as individuals are to be quick to forgive. There are no strings attached. A person doesn’t have to undo a wrong. He or she doesn’t even have to “learn their lesson.” By forgiving we may put ourselves potentially at harm. We are still expected to forgive. If we want to be like our first love, Jesus, this is an aspiration worthy of striving for. It is a quality which draws us to Him. It is something that causes us to love Him. His forgiveness is an aspect of His nobility and divinity. Therefore, just as we serve a God who is willing to forgive, let us be a people who are willing to forgive as well.