4-15-17 3:07 PM EST: "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." (Luke 23:34)
There have been a lot of times in my life, especially my adult life, where people who were close to me did things or something that hurt me or treated me badly. It's never fun when someone does or says something whether they mean to do it or not.
Sometimes it seems that people think I'm a pushover or too willing to let people treat me less than what I should be. Im not proud of all the times in my life I've said or done something that hurt someone else either. If everyone just said 'forget you' every time someone said something to bother us, or did something spiteful, or even just said or did something out of anger, I don't think anyone would have any friends at all.
Have you ever done or said something stupid, you wish you could take back as soon as it was said or done? Have you ever had to forgive someone for doing something to you? Or have you just gone your own way and never talk to that person ever again? Sometimes people hurt us, and it's worse when it comes from a family member, friend, or anyone we love and care about, and it can be hard to forgive things sometimes. Harder still to forget, but sometimes people do spiteful, mean, and downright stupid things. It's part of human nature.
History shows us how human nature can be pretty brutal and evil too. Sometimes I look at things going on in the world and wonder how Jesus could love us so much as to offer himself as a sin offering in our place. I have to wonder sometimes if we are worth it.
The Bible makes it clear that God doesn't need us, but in some incredibly unfathomable way, He loves us, and the answer to the question 'are we worth it' is clear in the story of Jesus's death and resurrection.
When one thinks of what Jesus suffered…his betrayal after the Seder meal, forsaken by his disciples, denial by Peter, the treatment during his trial before the Pharisees, his scourging and flogging at the command of Pilate, and then the ultimate - the full wrath of God on the cross. It's incomprehensible to me that he willingly and knowingly went through all of it and yet He still said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
I'm not sure which act shows the most love - the punishment he took, or the forgiveness. Either way, and in both ways it's incredible to think of when we realize that Jesus could have just called in God's Angel Armies to clear out all and every enemy and thoughtless jerk who mocked him - or, he could have just said, forget it - I'm out of here, you're all on your own, and your own sins condemn you. But he didn't. Because He loves us. He loves me - He loves you.
It's taken me a lot of years as a follower of Christ to allow him to mold me into more a likeness of him, and I'm ashamed to think of how many times I've messed up. How many times I swear when things aren't going the way I want them, or whine about my circumstances. How many ways do I offend people I care about by saying or doing something stupid or didn't think…? I can't imagine how many times He's had to start over with me. But I am still trying to be more like Him. One of the ways He’s been teaching me is through forgiveness.
As I think about all the ways in which Jesus forgave, and admonished others to forgive - even 70 times seven if need be, can I not forgive people who were close to me for hurting me when I was already down? Or forgive a friend for saying something mean to me? If not, not only would I not be much of a follower, but I would be the biggest hypocrite for praising him for forgiving all of my sins, but refusing to forgive a slight against me. I don't want to be like that. I don't want to hold things against people, because all that does is embrace bitterness and hate. And there is more than enough of that in our world these days as it is.
There's a line in a song that I used to sing to my son when he was little, "Oh how I love Jesus, because He first loved me".
He loved us first, and He forgave us first, so we could love and forgive each other. I can't forgive someone for the wrongs they do to others, that's between them and God. All I can do is act or react to the way people treat me, and I can forgive, because He forgave me first.
There is a time for all things, even anger - but don’t let that fester into bitterness through not forgiving someone.
I hope this Easter, people will think about all the ways that they have been forgiven, and maybe extend that to someone who hurt them. Or, maybe you are the one who needs forgiveness. We all know how fragile and short life can be, and it's not worth the pain of not receiving forgiveness from someone who is not around anymore, or missing a chance to forgive.
Easter is the most important observance of what love is, what mercy, grace, and forgiveness looks like, and the chance to receive the precious gifts given by our Creator. If you believe you're too far gone to receive that love, think about the forgiveness Jesus has already given you, and know that He loves you incredibly, and that you are worth it.