Ten days ago Sydney was shocked to learn that four children had been struck down by a car driven by a 29 year-old allegedly three times over the legal limit. Three of the children were siblings from a family of six. The fourth was their cousin. They had been out together to buy ice-cream when the car veered off the road and on to the path where they were walking. The mother of the three children stunned the world when she said that she forgave the driver. Her husband was quoted as saying that ‘Jesus is the rock’.
How could anyone in such circumstances have it in their heart to forgive?
To forgive when we are wronged is one of the toughest challenges for God’s people. Our first and natural response is to cry out for justice. Anger in these moments is justified. So how can we forgive?
Jesus’ words as he hung on the cross are front and center. On the cross he was dying a painful, slow, wicked death. It was wicked in the extreme because he was innocent of any crime. And yet he prayed, ‘Father forgive them…’
Some have said he was praying for the soldiers. But in that case he would have said, ‘Father, understand them’. They were doing their duty. Others suggest he was praying for the Jewish and the Roman leaders who had instigated his death and certified it.
But when we reflect on the big picture of Jesus’ life and teaching, we realize that he was praying that God would forgive ignorance of the truth about himself and the resulting injustices and godless behavior. Yes, he was praying for the Roman soldiers, the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities. He was also praying for the crowd and for his followers. Furthermore, he was praying for every one of us, including you and me.
Despite the pain and supreme injustice of the cross, Jesus was not looking to his own needs.
Rather, he was sacrificing his life so that God could justly forgive a godless and thankless humanity when they turn back to him. Furthermore, even in his agony he was putting into practice the law of neighbour love that he had taught: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemies,’ but I tell you,” he said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
If we are honest, we are all guilty at some time or another, of mocking or denying the Lord Jesus. We have all rejected his claims to be our Lord. Some of us have often heard the story of the cross yet refuse to let Jesus into every part of our life. Others don’t really believe that their indifference or arrogance towards him contributed to the suffering he endured.
It’s easy to close our minds to what we don’t want to hear, to harden our hearts. Luke tells us that even as we do, Jesus prayed for us, and continues to pray for us. He prays for us in our wilful foolish ignorance and behavior: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The parents of the dead children expressed a profound understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. It was because Christ died in our place and was raised again that Jesus could justly pray, “Father forgive them…”
When we forgive those who have wronged us, people around us take notice.
True faith in Christ Jesus enables us to say, ‘He is my rock and my redeemer’. Because he has forgiven me, I need to learn to forgive and to pray for the grace to forgive.
As Jesus himself has taught, “When you pray say:
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who sins against us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial” (Luke 11:2-4).
© John G. Mason
‘Outreach’ in changing times. At the Anglican Connection April Conference speakers will be addressing ways we can live and respond to the challenges of the changes around us. We also plan to provide networks that will facilitate the development of effective leaders for today’s world. Will you pray for us and support us? Will you come with leaders from your church? Register on this website here:…