Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
What do you do when you are wronged? We all know the Sunday School Answer; that is, as Christians we are called to forgive. But read the following scenarios:
1. A child playing with a toy is shoved aside by an older kid who runs off laughing, toy in hand. That child crying on the playground is your daughter.
2. Another driver veers into your lane forcing you to hit your brakes which causes the takeout dinner you were bringing home to topple over and spill onto your floor rug.
3. As he waves the gun in front of the elderly storeowner, the young man accidentally pulls the trigger, escalating an armed robbery into a murder case. You are the next of kin who gets the phone call – the call to come to the hospital morgue and identify your father’s lifeless body.
Again, what do you do when you are wronged? The truth is, most of us would rather scream, “Father, forgive them NOT, for they knew EXACTLY what they did!” We would much rather seek revenge and have our pound of flesh.
Yet during this Lenten season, we are compelled to look upon the cross where our Lord hung. Jesus could have easily lashed out at the injustice and brutality, yet he went along quietly like a lamb led to his slaughter. And when he did raise his voice, it was to utter a simple, yet unimaginable prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Miroslav Volf is no stranger to violence. A native Croatian, Volf lived through the war that divided and ravaged the former Yugoslavia. In his book, Exclusion and Embrace, Volf offers the following reflection on the importance of Jesus saying this prayer while on the cross: “At the heart of the cross is Christ’s stance of not letting the other remain an enemy and of creating space in himself for the offender to come in.”
In his life and ministry, Jesus regularly reached out to “the other,” creating space by forgiving and breaking down walls of hostility. And just as he lived, so he died. Jesus would not let his enemies remain as such; his prayer was for them to be forgiven and reconciled to the Father.
This Lenten season, let us return to the cross of Jesus and reflect upon the forgiveness that Jesus offers. May his forgiveness renew our hope and grant us strength to follow in his steps.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, if you do not help us, we cannot forgive as you forgave. So help us. Amen.
Rev. Samuel Nam