I call this the principle of "unilateral forgiveness."
Unilateral means one-sided.
Unilateral forgiveness is a forgiveness which flows out from the forgiver.
The other person does not ask for it, may not even realize that the needs it.
The forgiver takes the initiative and forgives without waiting for the other person to come and ask for forgiveness.
That's what Stephen is doing here in Acts 6 - as we will see Sunday.
He forgives those who are stoning him - even though they are not asking for it.
When we at Stone Church practice unilateral forgiveness then the gates of hell shall not stand against us!
The world can never break the church. The power of hell cannot break the church. The only thing that cannot break the church is her own unwillingness to live in forgiveness.
Let me share with you this:
Stephen reacts to the persecution of those around him with unilateral forgiveness:
And as he is being stoned he cries out, "I see the Son of man standing at the right hand of God!"
Father do not lay this sin to their charge."
Hebrews tells us that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3)
But when Stephen sees him, he is standing up. Standing up in honor of Stephen! Jesus himself! Powerful, powerful, stuff.
David du Plessis says, "Jesus stood up to honor Stephen and his word of unilateral forgiveness."
Picture Jesus, standing up, looking over the whole of heaven, saying, "Who is this that my servant is forgiving? I must go to that man."
Yes, and go to that man he did - to the ringleader of that band, Saul of Tarsus. He met him on the road to Damascus as we will study.
He met him because Stephen had unilaterally forgiven him, and opened the gateway for an encounter with Jesus.
That is hard. It is difficult to practice unilateral forgiveness.
It is not natural - but it is supernatural.
We think, "Oh, if they would just come to us and repent, we would forgive them."
But this kind of forgiveness rubs us the wrong way.
Forgiveness need not wait for the confession and apology from the offender!
You say, "Well does that take away the personal responsibility of the person who offended me."
No, what it actually does is open up the door for God to step in and really deal with that person. Until you forgive, that person will continue to be bound with his sin.
Whether that person receives the forgiveness, whether they accept it, live in it and move on, that you can't tell.
Your part, my part is to forgive, freely and without waiting to be asked.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.