Alexander Pope (1688-1744), English poet, once said,
To err is human; to forgive, divine.
So true...but we humans more readily echo what someone else has said,
To err is human, but to get even? THAT is divine.
We struggle so, with forgiving our offenders! Perhaps that's why we are amazed and awestruck to realize that Jesus' first words from the Cross were ones of forgiveness.
And these words came after hours of suffering: agony in Gethsemane, betrayal, arrest, abandonment and denial by his own, illegal trial after trial, scourging, mocking, carrying His cross.
Then as He was being nailed to and raised on that same cross, He said,
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34
Jesus seemed to have a special love for those who betrayed and abused Him. Think about it...Judas, He called "Friend"; Peter, He had already interceded for and later restored; the deserting disciples, He loved still; His rejecting nation, He wept over; and now this angry mob and these vicious executioners, He forgave.
And aren't we all in that list? Put yourself there and realize that when Jesus was suffering and dying, He was forgiving you and me: all our evil deeds -- past, present, and future; all the evil that dwells in our flesh -- the self-sins: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others that make up the self-life (AW Tozer, Pursuit of God).
And sin separates us from God*...so we need Christ's forgiveness.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit... 1 Peter 3:18
And sin also separates us from one another*...and that's where the struggle comes in. Here's a question that I've been pondering:
Did Jesus struggle with forgiving as we do? Or could it be because of our self-sins that we struggle so? What do you think? (You can weigh in below in the comments if you'd like.)
Here are a few of my thoughts: Maybe that was part of what went on in Gethsemane. Jesus struggled there with the will of the Father, but He surrendered Himself to it:
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. Luke 22:42-43
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him... Hebrews 5:7-9
When we struggle with forgiveness, we need exactly what Jesus needed...surrender to the Father's will and purpose, even in our hurt and pain. As we go through the decision as well as the process (because for most of us, it's both), we can remember the loving and forgiving Christ who lives within. He will forgive and love through us if we let Him (that's called faith).
A few years back, I was struggling with forgiving in a certain situation. I asked the Lord to give me a picture of Himself in my mind and heart when I felt offended, rejected, left out, or neglected. Immediately what came to me was a picture of Jesus' face as He was dying on the Cross and speaking the words,
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
Are you struggling with forgiveness, dear brother or sister? Fill your mind and heart with the forgiving Christ. Invite Him into the hurt and surrender to the Father's child training. He will love and forgive through you as you trust Him.
And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 4:32-5:2
I’m forgiven because You were forsaken, I’m accepted, You were condemned. I am alive and well, Your spirit is within me, Because You died and rose again.
Chorus Amazing love, How can it be That You, my King, should die for me? Amazing love, I know it’s true. It’s my joy to honor You, In all I do, I honor You.
You are my King Jesus You are my King You are my King
*Many thanks to pastors and friends at Abiding Christ Church for generously sharing your congregational Lenten study, The Last Seven Statements from the Cross. I've borrowed some of the titles and thoughts from that study.
The New Covenant was inaugurated through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper (Communion) to remember this new covenant in His blood. Luke 22:14-20 Basic to all the New Covenant promises is forgiveness of sins. Read through Hebrews 8:6-12. List the promises/provisions of the New Covenant. Be sure to note the reason all these are possible in verse 12.
- aphiemi, aphesis= to send forth or away; to let go from oneself This is the word used in Luke 23:34. "The expression 'to forgive sins' or to remit sins means to remove the sins from someone. Only God is said to be able to do this (Mark 2:10). To forgive sins is not to disregard them and do nothing about them, but to liberate a person from them, their guilt, and their power." Spiro Zodiates, NT Word Study Dictionary. See also Romans 4:7; 1John 1:9, 2:12; Ephesians 1:7-8
- charizomai = to show someone a favor, be kind to; to give or bestow something willingly; derived from charis, "grace""The most common meaning peculiar to the NT is to pardon, to graciously remit a person's sin (Col 2:13)...also to forgive someone, be gracious to (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13)." Zodiates.
- apoluein = to release, pardon a prisoner, release a debtor. See Luke 6:37, Matt 18:27
- paresis = to disregard, a passing over, an overlooking of faults. See Romans 3:25
Lewis B. Smedes, Shame & Grace. Chapter 17 ("Coming to Terms with Our Shamers") has very helpful thoughts on forgiveness. Smedes has also authored a book, Forgive & Forget. I haven't read it, but it might be worth looking at by clicking on the link.
A beautiful, "hands on" forgiveness devotional by Ann Voskamp