JESUS — our Saviour, Lord and King — is also our Exemplar of everything of this Christian life. To say we live biblically is to say we are committed and remain committed to what the Bible commends us to do, as lived through the life, teaching and death of Jesus.
One of Jesus’ exemplary behaviours was his attitude to forgiveness.
Jesus’ attitude toward forgiveness was reflected in his life, in how he continually forgave the legalists who plotted persistently against him. Jesus’ attitude on forgiveness was reflected in his teaching, for good instance, on the Sermon on the Mount (“love your enemies”). And Jesus’ attitude on forgiveness climaxed in his death on the cross.
This last exemplification of Jesus’ commitment to forgiveness is marked in its application for every single one of us.
Jesus said, famously, in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
But Jesus didn’t say it just once. Jesus kept saying it. The Greek word elegon in Luke’s gospel indicates that Jesus said it a number of times. He repeated it. The form of the word lego (say) indicates an action in the past that was repeated continuously.
Jesus shows us, even though he had the capacity for perfection, that he had to work at forgiveness, continuously. It wasn’t a once-and-all-done thing. As he was spat upon he had to utter those words, “Father, forgive them,” and as those nails were hammered into his flesh he had to bellow those words, “Father, forgive them,” and as he was hoisted vertically he had to scream those words, “Father, forgive them.”
How could Jesus forgive them? He could forgive them because “they [didn’t] know what they [were] doing.”
They didn’t understand. They should have, but they didn’t.
Jesus understands that, as we seek to forgive, we suffer many, many reminders of the injustices they have done to us. We have to repeatedly use our will to surrender our will for God’s. God understands intimately, because Jesus had to do it.
Those that transgress us don’t understand the impact it’s had on us. They don’t understand it like we do, just like we don’t understand it from their side.
They can’t be expected to understand, as we do. Our task of forgiveness is to understand that they don’t, and to accept they may never understand. But we need to re-imagine this time and time and time again.
Forgiveness sounds simple, but it never is. Forgiveness is as much a process of committing to forgive, time and again, as it is anything else.
What means so much can never be trivial. Forgiveness is hard because it meant so much.
Forgiveness is a process. Healing will come in its own time. Just commit in faith.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.