“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
“Father, forgive them…” Those were Jesus’ words on the cross. Now be honest…if someone had just pressed a crown of sharp thorns on your head, stripped you naked, brutally punched and beaten you senseless, driven nails into your hands and feet, lifted you up on a cross to die, spit on you, mocked you, and gambled for your clothes, would you honestly be praying that kind of prayer? Is that kind of forgiveness even possible for people like you and me? We tend to get angry when someone cuts us off on the Freeway or pulls out in front of us in traffic. In those situations, I don’t hear myself saying, “Father, forgive them.”
What is more incredible is that Jesus could have called 12 legions of angels to His defense. I would have said, “Sic’ em, Gabriel!” But instead, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.” The verb “forgive” is in the present tense, which in the Greek language means it is happening continuously. Jesus was seeking continual forgiveness for His killers…continuous grace and mercy for His enemies. Jesus was absolutely full of forgiveness.
If anyone ever had a reason and a right not to forgive, it was Jesus. It wasn’t just that He was innocent of a particular accusation; He was innocent of any accusation. He never wronged anybody. So we have the One who needed no forgiveness offering it to those who had no right to be forgiven. Jesus’ words on the cross teach us this truth: God meets guilt with grace.
It wasn’t just the Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross. It was my sins and your sins that nailed Him to the cross. When He said, “Father, forgive them,” we must remember to put the word, “me,” in there as well. It wasn’t just “them” that needed forgiveness. It is “me” that needs forgiveness also.
Is there someone that has wronged you that you would rather die than to forgive? Is there someone who is totally unworthy and undeserving of your forgiveness? If so, remember what we learn from Jesus’ example: We can forgive those who don’t deserve it. Remember that Jesus forgave you when you didn’t deserve it. “Father, forgive them.” These three words are some of the most powerful words anyone can ever say. When is the last time you spoke them?
God, I ask you to please forgive those who have hurt me and wronged me, even if they aren’t sorry. Help me to always have a forgiving spirit, forgiving others the way You have forgiven me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.