FORGIVE THEM!

22 04 2015

forgiveness-2

We have just journeyed through another Easter Season but that doesn’t mean we have to pack up the lessons that the Lord attempted to teach us on the way to the cross and resurrection. One of those examples has to do with forgiveness. On the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Now this raises a question: Why forgive a person for what he does not know he is doing? Wouldn’t we say: “Father, since they don’t know what they are doing, they are not guilty and don’t need to be forgiven?” Isn’t it either-or? Either you know what you are doing and need to be forgiven. Or you don’t know what you are doing and you don’t need to be forgiven. Why does Jesus draw attention to their ignorance of what they are doing and ask God to forgive them? The correct answer is because they were guilty for not knowing what they were doing.

Forgiveness is only needed for the guilty. Nobody can forgive an innocent person. That’s why all this talk these days about people needing to forgive God borders on the ludicrous. What is God guilty of? Maybe his biggest crime is being misunderstood. Forgiveness is really for the guilty and if that is the case, we have made plenty mistakes and fully fit the description of needing what God is offering us!

I want to make something clear because forgiveness is not cheap. When we choose to forgive others, we are not letting the offender off the hook or allowing them to get away with anything. By the act of forgiveness alone, we are agreeing they are guilty! But by the act of forgiveness we are humbly handing the judgment and sentence over to the only One who could do something worthwhile about it anyway. Only God can handle the weight and the explosiveness of that package!

When Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them,” he means all those present are guilty. Love doesn’t ignore the guilt, it does something positive about it! When Jesus says, “For they don’t know what they are doing,” the Lord is implying that, “They should know what they are doing. And they are guilty for not knowing what they are doing.” In other words, they have so much evidence of the truth that the only explanation for their ignorance is they choose to refuse to see it.

They are proud and hard and resistant and hold on to a stubborn and rebellious stance. They should have seen what they were doing but they became blind by their bold and blundering belligerence. That is why they needed to be forgiven. And we need that forgiveness also!

So here are Gentiles and Jews killing the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel and the most innocent and loving man that ever came upon our planet. But they did not know whom they were killing. For this ignorance they were guilty and in need of forgiveness. And amazingly, Jesus is praying for them that his Father would open their eyes and help them to see their sin, repent, and be forgiven. That is the beautiful thing about this prayer of Jesus: it declares guilt and offers forgiveness at the same time. So if you are rejecting Jesus as Son of God and Lord and Savior of your life, he declares that you are still guilty and he still offers himself as the sacrifice to pay for your sins and forgive all the sins you have ever done and ever will do.

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” But they should have known what they were doing. They should have been objective, but life can twist matters so absurdly that when things don’t go our way, we humans are oblivious to the obvious! Some of you reading this article today are in an unpleasant present circumstance. You are not at your best to make wise choices.

You will ignore even the truth to justify your tantrums!

There was evidence, and there is evidence, that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God who he claimed to be. For example: his supernatural healings; his authority over nature; his power over demons; his compassion for outcasts and his association with the lowly; his simplicity of life and indifference to wealth; his unparalleled wisdom and his seeing through hypocrisy; his indifference to human praise and devotion to the good of others; his living for the glory of God; and his willingness to die for others just to name a few! Those are some of the evidences that made the ignorance of his killers a foolish but still a guilty ignorance. Therefore, they needed to be forgiven even if they did not know what they were doing, because they should have known.

Some of you today are withholding forgiveness because you are choosing to ignore the example and command of our Savior when he told us, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

The literal meaning of this verse is “Forgive us our sins, in proportion with, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Jesus is saying in the plainest language possible that if we forgive others, God will forgive us but if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us! It is therefore quite clear that if we ask God to forgive us while we still have an unsettled and unforgiven issue in our life, we might be saying God forgive us with our lips but our behavior is saying, God don’t forgive me!
I have heard many a Christian say that I could never forgive or forget what so and so has done to me. You might as well be saying to God, “And I don’t expect your forgiveness either!” Our forgiveness of one another and God’s forgiveness of us is intertwined and can’t be separated.

I want you to hear this also today loud and clear – forgiveness has nothing to do with condoning what the other person did! Forgiveness simply means that we are choosing to not allow the wrong behavior of another individual to batter everything that should be right in our world. Forgiveness prevents the sin of another to poison our wells from drinking life. When we choose not to forgive, we open the door of our hearts to hatred, bitterness, malice, resentment, jealousy, pride and a long list of other not so goodies!

Some of you today need to forgive so that you can give bitterness a big kick to the curb. Bitterness will always open the gates wide to all the garbage that prevents you seeing clearly what God is doing and where life is and isn’t found. It’s not discovered in holding a grudge. But giving it to God.

The offended Christian must release the offender to God, or the grace of God becomes blocked and blurred. When we forgive like Jesus did on the cross, we are actually unlocking the door for God’s Spirit to work freely in that person! So the very first word of Jesus on the cross is the very first invitation we receive to leave the godless life behind and come to him.

Even as he was being creamed by the chaos of the cancer of vile hatred, Jesus opened up the door to God’s Grace by saying “Father Forgive them.” If we want to open the door for God to move freely in the lives of our families, our friends, our flocks and our fair county, we must practice forgiveness. I say practice because it will never come easy. Jesus modeled it, we must follow it and we must experience it in all of its freeing fullness.

Who will you forgive today just like the Father forgave you?


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