How to Forgive Like Jesus

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:26-34)

To fully grasp the significance of Jesus’ words in verse 34, we need to fully understand what had happened to him leading up to that moment. It started when he was betrayed by one of his closest friends and arrested. He then spent a sleepless night being shuttled back and forth between Jewish leaders, Pontius Pilate, and King Herod, while they lobbied accusations of blasphemy and treason at him before finally hearing the same voices that lauded his arrival less than a week earlier turn on him and shout, “Crucify him!” and call for the release of a convicted insurrectionist instead. He was brutally scourged with whips designed to tear away flesh and muscle from the bone, while his torturers mocked his very identity as King. He then had to carry his own cross through the city, only the sleepless night followed by the scourging left him too weak to do so, and Simon of Cyrene was conscripted to do it for him. Upon arriving at Calvary, nails were driven through his wrists and feet, two of the most sensitive nerve centers in the body, a crown of thorns was pushed down on his head as yet another symbol of contempt and mockery, and he was hung naked, probably not much higher than eye-level so that people could insult him to his face and spit at him. And all the while, his mother was watching this being done to her son.

It was at this moment that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Whoa. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even fathom those words passing my lips at that moment. Those words should shock you to your core and make you pause. No one is capable of forgiving something like that, right? Continue reading How to Forgive Like Jesus

Why We Don’t Forgive

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. (Matthew 18:28-31)

We’ve definitely reached an interesting point in this parable. Previously in the story, we met a servant who was in debt to his master for 10,000 talents (an insurmountable debt), yet was forgiven everything when he pleaded for mercy.

Now that same servant is in the position of creditor, holding the 100 denarii debt of a fellow servant. This other servant pleaded for mercy, just as his creditor had done to the master. Yet the original servant, the one who had been forgiven so much by the master, refused to forgive the debt of his peer, and instead chose to imprison him until his family and friends could raise enough money to pay the debt and have him released.

Whoa. The story concludes in the succeeding verses by looking at the master’s response to this hypocrisy, but for now, I think there are a few insights into the human condition that we see here: Continue reading Why We Don’t Forgive

With Malice Toward None

In honor of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth today, I figured I would repost this entry that I wrote a couple years ago.

Abraham Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Address. John Wilkes Booth, who would assassinate Lincoln just over a month later, is in the balcony above him.

On March 14th, 1865, President of the United States Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most important speeches in his country’s history. As he was being inaugurated for the second time, the Southern War for Independence was all but over, and Lincoln had the daunting task of beginning the reconstruction of a nation torn asunder. Speaking to a crowd made up mostly of Northerners who blamed the South for the long bloody war, Lincoln crafted a message focused on forgiveness and healing that ended with one of the most eloquent passages of any presidential speech:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

As I read these words, I cannot help but think that they are still relevant today, especially to the Church. Obviously Lincoln was not directing this address towards believers in his day much less 21st century Christians, but we can still find instruction and encouragement in his words. Continue reading With Malice Toward None

Playing the Harlot

No matter how many times I read the Old Testament prophets, I never cease to be shocked by the graphic language that God uses. I imagine that perhaps his intention in using such language was so that Israel and future readers would indeed be shocked about our sin. I think we sometimes take our sin too lightly (or at least I know I do) because of the free grace we have been given. Even Israel took that view in verses 4-5:

“Even now you say to me, ‘You are my father! You have been my faithful companion ever since I was young. You will not always be angry with me, will you? You will not be mad at me forever, will you?’ This is what you say, but you continually do all the evil that you can.”

Unfortunately, I know that line all too well. I sin, quickly ask for the forgiveness I know is available, and turn around to sin again. In Jeremiah 3, however, God gives us insight into how he views our sin, and I’m not sure one can read it and ever look at sin the same way again. Just look at the language God uses to describe Israel’s unfaithfulness: Continue reading Playing the Harlot