Friday, November 2, 2012

Father, Forgive Them....

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”’  ~ Luke 23:33-34

Judging from the low amount of page views my previous post received, I’m thinking that forgiveness doesn’t rank very high among the Top 40 popular, Must Read blog post topics (If you missed it, please CLICK HERE to read 'Forgiveness'). 

I can understand why.  Like politics and religion, forgiveness can be a touchy, volatile subject.  Truth be told, most people would not only rather avoid thinking and talking about forgiveness, but more than likely would rather refrain from initiating and acting upon it as well.

Because forgiving one another is hard. REALLY hard. Not just for the small annoyances in life, but for those over-the-top, ‘how could anyone do something like this?!’ things, too.  Things that seem almost impossible to forgive.

I don’t have to remind anyone reading here that there are A LOT of thoughtless, cruel, heartless people in this world. From liars, thieves, drunk/drugged drivers, embezzlers, adulterous spouses to murderers, rapists, pedophiles, sexual predators, etc., there are people who don’t seem to care about the havoc they wreak or the carnage of broken people they leave behind; people who delight in the pain of others, be it physical, emotional or mental pain.  All you have to do is open up your newspaper, turn on your television or radio, power up your computer or simply walk out your front door to be witness to what’s going on in this fallen world.  When we read about an elderly person savagely attacked in their home, or learn of yet another child who’s been kidnapped and found miles away later on, brutally murdered, or we find ourselves the hurting victim of a crime of the body or the heart, forgiveness for the perpetrator isn’t on our minds or in our hearts, is it?  Nope.

Revenge is.

We’d rather see these monsters of society get what’s coming to them.  And if we’re totally honest, deep inside, wouldn’t we all like to get a whack at them ourselves, showing up in courtrooms or jail cells, like those mobs of angry villagers in old movies, brandishing our pitchforks and torches?

But, if we say we are Christians, aren’t we expected to brandish mercy and grace, and to extend forgiveness instead?  And when WE sin, don’t we expect our offenses – no matter what they are -- to be forgiven? Don’t we BEG for God’s mercy and grace to catch us when slip and fall headlong into sin?  Of course we do. I know I do.

Forgiven, by Thomas Blackshear
We can memorize the following Bible verse and gladly declare it and claim it as a ‘life verse:’

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’” ~ Romans 5:8 (NIV). 

But what about committing THIS C.S. Lewis quote to memory and living it out:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 


I have to wonder – how did Jesus feel right before He cried out from the cross those mind-boggling words?

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing!”

Did Jesus wrestle with forgiving His haters, His betrayers, His murderers, much as He did in the garden at Gethsemane, struggling in anguished prayer to do His Father’s will and accept the overwhelming cup He’d been offered? He very well may have, but we have no way of knowing, since there is no record in the Bible of this particular wrestling match between the human and the Divine sides of Jesus in that instance.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  In me. If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could do the unthinkable and ask forgiveness for the very people who despised Him, who betrayed Him, who mocked, beat and tormented Him, and nailed Him onto a wooden cross – WHILE He was hanging on that cross, close to breathing His final breath, and DYING FOR THEIR SINS AND OURS – can we do any less?  Can we remember that it’s not us but God Who says, “Vengeance is Mine, and I will repay?” Can we leave the justice and judgment calls up to Him, and just put down our pitchforks and torches…and learn to forgive instead?

It’s not easy, this forgiving of others. Oh, how I know just how difficult it can be!  So please join me next time for some closing thoughts in my final installment (and in case you’re wondering….no, I hadn’t planned on this turning into a mini-series of sorts)!

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