The primary characteristic of the Christian faith is found in the first words Jesus uttered from the cross found in Luke 23:34:
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."
Of all things Christianity represents, there is none any greater and more profound than forgiveness. No other religion places any significance on forgiveness for no other religion has the Savior from sin.
After undergoing torture fit only for the world’s worst criminal and a trial void of truth and reeking with the desire to destroy Him; Jesus had every reason to be angry, bitter and vindictive toward those responsible for His suffering and crucifixion. Yet, the first words from his mouth after being crucified were "Father, forgive them."
The most difficult thing to do in this life is forgive. That which demands the most from us in this life is forgiveness. Forgiving someone is NEVER easy and usually necessitates a sacrifice almost no one is willing to make. Yes, at the very heart of forgiveness is sacrifice.
In order to forgive yourself or anyone else, you must be willing to sacrifice all the things standing in the way of forgiving. What type of things are these? At the top of the list is anger. When wronged, the inevitable first response is to get angry at the person. This anger is expressed in the desire to lash back at the antagonist.
Once the anger subsides the longer lasting feelings of resentment and bitterness settle in. Whereas anger may cause immediate problems due to the emotions involved, resentment and bitterness are what devastate people and lead them down the road to hardness of heart.
One needs to look no further than the children of Israel in the wilderness to see how these things all work. Time and again Moses had to reprove them for their stubbornness and hardness of heart. This was because they allowed themselves to get angry and bitter about the state they were in.
When the time comes in a person’s life that they say "I didn’t deserve that", it is a dead giveaway that the person has fallen into the throes of bitterness and resentment. When a person takes the position that they didn’t deserve for something to happen to them, they are really saying that they blame someone else for it happening.
Much is made of the need for "closure" in criminal cases. We have been made to believe that just because a person is found guilty and either locked up for his lifetime or put to death for the crime he committed, that somehow that is supposed to ease the pain associated with the crime. Watching someone being punished for a crime committed does nothing to wash away the effects that crime produced in someone’s heart.
If I walked into your house today, shot and killed your child or spouse I think it would be fair to say that you would want justice served and that I would executed for my crime. This is all well and good from a crime and punishment point of view, but my execution would never bring back the life which was lost. Thus, even though I received what I was due, your heart would still be hard and bitter.
The ONLY THING that can calm the anger, pull up the root of bitterness and soften the most hardened of hearts is forgiveness. Watching the one responsible for a heinous crime receive their due punishment may make a person feel good in a sordid kind of way, but it will never cleanse the conscience of the resentment and hardness that almost always comes after such an act.
My dad was no angel, and that is for sure. All the years I lived at home (until I graduated from High School), I lived with an emotionally unbalanced man whose addiction to alcohol brought out the very worst parts of him. He could and would be obnoxious, demeaning and unreasonable. He was, many times, nigh unto impossible to please and to live with.
One of the things I distinctly remember on that mountain in New Mexico in 1969 was breaking down in tears asking God to forgive me for how I felt about my dad. I then pleaded with God to allow me to love my dad and not hate him for all he had done to me and my mom. Finally I remember forgiving my dad for each and everything he had done to drive me into the introverted and pathetic state I had gotten to.
It took years for my dad to change and come to know the Lord and become a quiet and loving man respected by all who knew him. But, I know he would have never gotten there at all if I had not asked for forgiveness for the hate in my heart and forgiven him for all he had done. Forgiveness healed the hardness which had imprisoned my heart.
When the time came 4 years ago when I honestly and individually willing forgave every person I knew in this life, my heart was again set free from the bondage imposed on it by bitterness and hardness. When "why me" was replaced with "I forgive you", I was set free and allowed to enjoy the fruits of forgiveness.
Which do we really want deep down inside; do we really want to see people pay for their sins in word and deed that hurt us, or do we want to be as our Lord was upon the cross and be willing to sacrifice our selfish pride and beg of the Father to forgive them that have despitefully used us and caused us such pain in this life. I know which one I choose. How about you?
To forgive once, or twice would be difficult..in our strength.
But Jesus said "Luke 17:3-4:
3"If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.
4 Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive."
That is really tough and would require much help from the Father above.
May the Lord help us to do what is right and help us deal with our selfish pride because it is for our own good.
Thanks B2y for sharing.
b2y, excellent, thank you, i may need to be reminded of that today. when i have problems forgiving, i only need look at how Christ forgave me of all i have done and will. He demands the same of me, thanks for the reminder! God Bless
When unforgiveness takes root in our heart, the person it hurts the most is... us. I learned a long time ago that when I was unable to forgive someone, I was able to bring that before God. I was able to ask him to help me do it, help me to unclench my fist. As He lovingly put His hand on my fist, I found myself slightly opening my hand. That was all it took! When I took that first step, He wrapped His hand around mine, gently helping me to open it... even as He held me... and cried with me.
What joy! I have never forgotten it! Did they ever actually ASK me for forgiveness. No, but that doesn't matter because you see forgiveness wasn't about them... it was about me. I praise God for forgiveness!
Some believe that forgiving someone lets them off the hook. But it doesn't, unless they've repented. However, whether they repent or not, it lets me off the hook of my own resentment and bitterness. So, in a way, forgiving someone else is a favor I do for myself--not to mention that it opens the door for me to receive God's forgiveness for my own failures.
This blog raises an interesting question, did Jesus ask for forgiveness for those who were treating Him wrong so that He could bless Himself? Surely it was not just something to say. There must have been a reason and it seems to me that the reason was that His Father then had the "right" to forgive any of those who later asked for forgiveness.
But something seems to be missing. Did I miss something in the original blog? Any ideas?
I had not thought about Jesus' remark as applying to all of us, but I think you are right, it was for all of us, though it may have been spoken more directly for the benefit of those who we right there at the time. Could it be that His remark was so that [u]we[/u] would know that He had no hard feeling against any of us?
As far as the Father waiting to strike humanity, the Bible does say that the wages of sin is death and so God the Father had to allow sin to kill us if it had not been for the death of Jesus, but I cannot see Him WANTING to kill us. Rather, the whole reason He allowed His Only Son Jesus to come was because He (the Father) loved us as much as the Son did. The Father wants us to live and not die, to be happy and not be in pain, to love and not hate.
[b]What a God we serve![/b]
I have enjoyed this discussion regarding who Jesus was referring to when he uttered those words. For the most part I just assumed He was speaking of those who were crucifying Him, with a secondary meaning of everyone.
I am starting to think that the words He uttered were the very backbone of the faith that now bears His Holy Name. The very foundation of Christianity is forgiveness and without it our faith would be empty and dead. It was through the shed blood of Jesus that our sins were forgiven and these words uttered by Jesus were the first ones after the nails had been driven into His hands and feet--his blood shed.
Was Jesus really saying "The Father HAS Forgiven You"? I don't know, but I shall continue to ponder the full meaning of this passage and its meaning. Thanks for bringing this up along with all the other wonderful comments.
Excellent blog and discussion. Just what this site was intended to be!
Forgiveness... some interesting blogs on this topic this weekend. See those of throughfaith and papillionkiller as examples.
Another passage on this topic is: [bible]Hebrews 12:15[/bible]
We can't have peace in our hearts, love our neighbors when our hearts are filled with forgiveness.