The First Word – “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”
C.S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” This first word from the cross has always been a tough one for me. Jesus is hanging from the cross. He asks God to forgive those who are casting lots to see who gets his clothing. He asks God forgive those who are taunting and bullying him: “He saved others, let him save himself!” He asks God to forgive those who are in charge of his execution, and offer him sour wine instead of a cool drink of water.
I don’t know about you but I’m not that kind of person! I can hold a grudge with the best of them! If people were rooting through my house, arguing about what they were going to inherit when I was dead, the LAST thing I would say would be “Father, forgive them.” If people were taunting and bullying me, calling me all sorts of derogatory names, the LAST thing I would say would be “Father, forgive them.” If people treated me with no sense of compassion whatsoever, being totally insensitive to my suffering, the LAST thing I would say would be “Father, forgive them.”
But this is what Jesus says. And somehow, somehow I think we are called to do the same! We know Jesus has forgiven us. We know Jesus has given us more second chances than we have hairs on our heads. But when it comes to offering forgiveness to others…it may be the hardest thing we will ever do. Let’s face it, when people hurt us, our gut instinct is to hurt them back. When people say nasty things to us, we want to return the favor.
But his is not what Jesus calls us to do. Jesus challenges us to let go of every hurt, every sorrow, every injustice, every injury, that has been inflicted on us by others. It doesn’t really matter if they ask for forgiveness. I believe we’re supposed to forgive them anyway. Because true forgiveness is not about them, it’s about us. It’s about letting go of the weight of anger that can crush us if we let it. It’s about letting God wash our souls clean of all the dung people heap on us.
Forgiveness is not an option. It’s a matter of survival. And so, we are called to do the hardest thing we may ever do in our lives: Forgive those who don’t deserve our forgiveness. This is the way we truly love our neighbors as much as we love our selves.
Compassionate Savior, Forgive us for the times we have mocked you and failed to be witnesses of your redeeming love. May we always remember your gift of forgiveness that has been extended to us time and time again, even though we do not deserve it. We ask this in your name. Amen.
Copyright ©2017 by David Eck