The Model of True Forgiveness

What do you do when somebody jilts you? Ever had someone go behind your back and thrust a knife in, twisting it to make the blow that much more lethal? Maybe someone wasn’t honest with you? Or maybe someone selfishly threw you under the bus, only looking out for their own best interests? Hard feelings begin to linger. They fester inside you, bubbling over like boiling water left too long on the stove. (You know what I’m talking about—like when you’re cooking mac n cheese, and you leave the noodles on for too long? Not that I have ever done anything like that.) You may even find your heart wanting to seek revenge upon your persecutors.

Sound familiar? I think we all can relate. Well, at least to some extent. Maybe my description above was so vivid since I am not too far removed from a situation last fall that I occasionally stew over myself to this very day. I sit and wonder if I should be trying to right the wrongs that were done to me in the past to ensure they never happen to someone else. After all, I’m just looking out for the good of others, right? I went to God with that the other day, and His whisper was all too clear in my head. Just pray for them. The rest will take care of itself.

Forgiveness is difficult. To take a line from one of the favorite books I teach, I’d rather trim my toenails with a lawnmower (Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick). The natural worldly reaction is to be like those overcooked noodles above, stewing and bubbling over until the mess is too much to handle. The “mess” might be you saying something out of anger or an e-mail that you fired off without thinking. Before you do anything out of anger, just hang loose. Wait a day or two. Let the anger diffuse itself. Pray and rest in God’s promise that He will never abandon.

Whenever I struggle with forgiveness, I think of someone else. This “someone” has just been betrayed by one of His best friends, a friend that favored his own selfish desires over true devotion. He likewise was sentenced to death by crucifixion from the SAME people who worshiped Him only one week earlier. Then, after being beaten, scourged, verbally assaulted, and finally nailed to the cross (imagine those nails being impaled through your own flesh), the Roman soldiers below Him mocked Him even more, gambling away His clothes. Take a wild guess who I am talking about here.

Pretty rough week, huh? Maybe just a teensy weensy bit rougher than the week you just had. What baffles me, what absolutely makes me wonder about this moment on the cross is what Jesus said right before the soldiers casted out lots. In Luke 23: 34 Christ says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I imagine this line being said and then having that moment when the record player makes the loud annoying jerk to stop, and the entire scene just goes silent. He said WHAT? Did the soldiers hear Him? What about Christ’s followers? How would everyone have reacted had they indeed heard the words coming out of His mouth?

Forgive them! Not Father, strike these pagans dead … not Father, get me the heck outa here …and certainly not Father, why are you making me go through this misery? No! Father, FORGIVE THEM. It just doesn’t make sense to us when our initial reaction to those who wrong us is most likely very worldly. But Christ is better than us. He is the ultimate! And He provides the definitive example of humility and forgiveness that we all need to pay heed to the next time anger knocks at the door.

Do me a favor. The next time you’re ticked off at someone who has wronged you, try something. Yes, I already mentioned it above, but I am going to pretend you all are a bunch of 7th graders in my classroom and repeat myself. Before you do anything silly out of frustration, stop and wait. Pray about it. Pray specifically for patience. Pray for guidance from above. Pray for that enemy, whoever it may be, even if you feel they don’t deserve it. The truth is we all deserve it. Didn’t Christ die for everyone?

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