“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
If I wasn’t already convinced Jesus was the Son of God, those words would do it for me.
He hangs there on the cross in agonizing pain, flanked on both sides by crucified criminals. The soldiers who nailed him to the cross roll dice for his clothes, and the Jewish leaders who should have praised him mocked his name instead. He is utterly alone. He could have called down lightning from heaven or an army of angels to deliver his wrath. But instead he uses a pain-wracked breath to utter a profoundly simple prayer.
Father, forgive them.
You could preach a thousand sermons on that line, but the thread I’d like to pull is this: Jesus saw the cross from heaven’s point of view. He knew that his suffering was a stop on the pathway to victory. He recognized the blindness and brokenness and ignorance of those that put him there, and he knew that they didn’t have the faintest glimmer of the eternal consequences of their actions. And so in the midst of the pain he prayed for their forgiveness.
If we want to forgive, we need to see from heaven’s point of view.
We tend to see the world through the lenses of our hurt. And when we are hurt, we make all kinds of judgments and determinations against the people responsible.
Don’t waste your energy. She’s not worth it anyway.
He’s just a jerk.
That mean streak’s never going to change.
You can’t trust a word she says.
When we’re hurt, it’s easy to surround ourselves with people who will help us nurse our pain. They mean well. They don’t want to see us hurt, so they encourage us in our tendencies toward blame and judgment. Of course it’s “their” fault. It’s just how they are. Shake it off, get rid of them, they don’t have to be your problem. We agree and we try to be the bigger person and move on–then we wonder why we just can’t let it go.
Forgiveness is an invitation to shift our point of view–to remember that this person, no matter how reprehensible their actions, is a person for which Jesus died. Forgiveness invites us to remember that hurt people tend to hurt people and that fear, pain, and brokenness may lie underneath. Forgiveness is a call to remember that our God still redeems.
We don’t do it on our own. As Corrie Ten Boom has so beautifully written:
I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. The Hiding Place
God gives us the love we need to see from his perspective if we will only ask. It might look like this:
- God, how do you want me to see this person?
- How should I pray for him?
- What boundaries do I need to have with her?
- How do you want to work in the midst of this situation?
- Show me what it looks like to safely love this person.
- Father, what is your heart for this person? How do you want to show your grace?
Every conflict is an opportunity to respond out of God’s storehouses of grace. What if we learned to move to intercession instead of judgment? To pray that God would work in this person’s life to fulfill the purpose he called them to before they were born? What if we prayed that God would demonstrate his grace in this situation and overwhelmed this person with his love? Would we finally get to see heaven start breaking loose?
To forgive, we need to get heaven’s point of view. As we learn to see through his eyes, God gives us the love and grace we need to forgive.
This post is Part 3 of a 5 part series on forgiveness.
- Acknowledge the pain.
- Invite Jesus in to heal.
- Ask God to help us see this situation and this person as he does.
- Relinquish our right to revenge and trust God to deal rightly.
- Pray blessings over the person who has hurt us.
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