The Legacy of Forgiveness

The Legacy of Forgiveness

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There’s a story in 2 Chronicles 24 about a godly priest named Jehoiada. He spearheaded the restoration of the temple and kept King Joash on the straight and narrow way. However, when Jehoiada died, King Joash was influenced by his officials and led astray. He abandoned the temple and was unfaithful to the Lord. The people were indulging in pagan practices, so Jehoiada’s son Zechariah stepped up and issued strong warnings. No one wanted to hear them, and 2 Chron. 24:21 says,

“But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple.

Zechariah was unfairly murdered for speaking the truth! As he lay dying, he said, “May the Lord see this and call you to account.”

What followed was the fulfillment of Zechariah’s wish. The Aramean army marched against Jerusalem, and even though they were a smaller foe, they destroyed the city and killed all its leaders. King Joash was severely wounded and retreated to his bed. While recovering, he was ambushed by his own officials and murdered. Then his son Amaziah became king and took his revenge. The officials who had killed his father were executed.

The legacy of Zechariah’s dying words was retribution and more murder and revenge.

In contrast, there’s the story of Stephen.  In Acts 7, he preaches the gospel to the powerful Jewish Sanhedrin.  As they listened, they became more and more furious and finally erupted in rage when Stephen had a vision of Jesus standing at God’s right hand. This was the ultimate blasphemy in their thinking and they “rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:58).

Again, here is someone being unfairly killed only for speaking truth.  But Stephen’s reaction was different.  Acts 7:59-60 says:

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Stephen’s dying words were ones of forgiveness. Acts 7:58 also tells us that Saul of Tarsus was present at this execution. And what was the legacy of Stephen’s death? The church grew and God had mercy on Saul, transforming him into the apostle Paul. We all know the great impact of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles throughout the Roman world. He also penned much of the New Testament!
I know firsthand the legacy of unforgiveness. It grows into bitterness and Hebrews 12:15 tells us that a bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. The analogy of a root is a great word picture. We have all seen concrete sidewalks cracked and broken because a tree root was growing through it. And yet, we use concrete for the foundations of large buildings!
the legacy of forgiveness
In my own family, I heard stories about my great grandmother. She was a godly woman, except that she had a major disagreement with her sister. It was unresolved, and afterwards they did not speak again for the rest of their lives! They lived only a few streets apart and it was a sad testimony of the results of bitterness.
I may have inherited a family legacy of unforgiveness, but the power of the Holy Spirit is stronger. He has given me freedom and my desire is to pass on a legacy to my children and grandchildren that is similar to Stephen’s. May I develop the habit of forgiving quickly and often, no matter what comes my way.
Linda Graf About Linda Graf

Linda Graf is the author of  Bitter Truth: My Story of Bitterness, Grace and Repentance. She wrote it after the Lord freed her from a lifestyle of anger and bitterness. She is a musician, a mentor and mother. Being an author was never on her radar, but during her journey from bitterness to joy in Christ, she was compelled to write about it. Check out her website where she blogs regularly.


  1. Bettilu Davies says:

    This was very good, Linda. Your lesson was inciteful and specific.

  2. I love the root analogy. A little bitterness is strong enough to crack our foundations.

  3. Thank you, Limda! You’re always such an encouragement.

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