“And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
And parting his garments among them, they cast lots (Luke 23:34).
One of the beautiful things about Jesus is that He is not merely a great teacher, but the ultimate Teacher: God’s message in the flesh. Jesus, therefore, does not simply utter commandments or provide abstract concepts. His very life provides examples of God’s Word in action (John 1:1, 14, 18)!
One such command is seen in Luke’s Gospel:
“But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also” (Luke 6:27-29).
Love an enemy? Bless those who curse? Pray for those who hurt you? These are very difficult things indeed!
Jesus never denies that they are difficult. Instead, He shows you the way by demonstrating the command in Himself, in a circumstance you are rather unlikely to experience!
In the midst of His great suffering on the cross, He petitions His Father to do this very thing: forgive those who are despitefully using Him. As He suffers such great and terrible anguish– anguish that most of us can barely imagine– He still represents God’s Word. He still holds firm to God’s intentions for the Kingdom.
If Jesus is able to forgive those who nailed His body to the cross, can we not forgive our fellow man who may strike us?
If Jesus is able to forgive those who mock Him, can we not forgive our fellow man when he insults us?
If Jesus is able to forgive those who conspired to have Him killed, can we not forgive those who do not particularly like us or attempt to do evil toward us?
It is not easy. It is rather counter-intuitive. But it was just as counter-intuitive for Jesus. The whole experience of suffering for our sins was likely counter-intuitive, yet He accomplished it because He was obedient to God’s will (Hebrews 5:7-9).
Forgiveness is not an option; if we cannot forgive others, we cannot be forgiven (Matthew 18:35). Nevertheless, we are not left without example. Let us seek to forgive others as we have been forgiven in Christ Jesus!
Ethan R. Longhenry