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Jesus taught forgiveness and mercy rather than retaliation. He also instructed his listeners to do good for their enemies. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:27-28). So, the early Christian community did not wage war or retaliate when they faced severe persecution. Rather, they prayed like Jesus did at the cross, stating, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). When the persecutors stoned Stephen to death, “he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and when he said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60). Paul advised the Romans, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head” (Rom 12:20).

Self-repentance and forgiveness to others are conditions for receiving God’s forgiveness. Jesus assured forgiveness for all sins except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus came to rescue the lost sheep and to save all who will cooperate with him, expressing genuine repentance. Jesus did not deny forgiveness to any who approached him with a repentant heart. He even prayed on the cross for the forgiveness of those who persecuted him (Lk 23:34). In the Lord’s prayer, he asked to pray, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6:12). He continued, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Mt 6:14-15). Peter asked Jesus, “’Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’” (Mt 18:21-22).


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