“And Jesus said, Father forgive them for they know not what they do..”  Luke 23:34

First and foremost I do not claim to be the writer that C.S. Lewis was.  So when I make a comparison, it is a comparison of thought, not talent or wisdom.  When C.S. Lewis wrote his wonderful work, The Problem with Pain, he stated that he first wanted to write it either anonymously or at least under a different name.  Why?  Because he was going to make statements about life, love and pain, which he knew intellectually and spiritually to be true, but he did not want anyone to think that he was able to live those out in his own life.  I can commiserate with him, for as I look at the topic of forgiveness, I see a standard which I can not say that I come close to living up to.  Alas, that does not change or refute the standard.

There is much written and said today about the great need for forgiveness in this world and I whole heartedly agree.  At the same time, the acts of wickedness, hatred and depravity that are requiring of forgiveness seem to multiply, not only in their number but also in their depth of evil.  And what is forgiveness, truly?  Dictionary .com has forgiveness being the act of releasing from penalty for an act.  So what is that?  You have wronged me, either through physical means or insults or both.  The penalty might involve physical restitution but also the penalty of my anger (which I believe to be righteous) and ill will towards you.

Why should I forgive?  For Jesus preaches that I should; not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  In the prayer, He taught us we are to forgive the trespasses of others as we have asked that our trespasses against God be forgiven.   There is a view that says that forgiveness is not about the object of our forgiveness, that is the person for whom our forgiveness is meant, but it is really about us.  It is a way for us to get on with our lives and move past the incident.  I again believe that forgiveness can have a very cathartic outcome for our lives.  Yet seemingly then, the act of pronouncing forgiveness is really about helping ourselves?

Jesus is hanging on the cross.  What does he know?  He knows that the men who have done this terrible thing to him, are sinning.  They are spilling innocent blood.  They have borne false witness against him.  Their penalty should be eternal damnation.  He forgives them.  Jesus knew that He was the Son of God.  Jesus knew that in three days He was going to rise again.  There is no aspect of Jesus’ forgiveness where he is trying to “get on with His life.”  No, Jesus loved them.  He truly did not want them to face the punishment that was rightly due them.  They were evil and for the most part were not interested in and would not accept Jesus forgiveness.  It didn’t matter to Jesus.  He took their sins upon Himself, and forgave them.

Heavy Sigh.  Why?  Because this I know.  I am a sinner and Jesus has taken my sins, my trespasses against Him and He has forgiven me, released me from any penalty.  That fills me with joy!  Jesus says, as I am, so you should be as well.  Gulp.  You, Doug, need to forgive.  Not so that you can move on with your life (which is only a side effect of the act of forgiveness), but so you can learn to love as I love.  You can begin to see others as I see them.  Wow, Really?  That’s what You expect???

The devil would tell us meeting that type of standard is impossible, so don’t even try.  Use the phrase:  I forgive you, then go on with your lives, still harboring the resentment and ill feelings against that person.  I’m forgiving them but not their act.  Jesus forgave them specifically for what they were doing.  I know there is no way that I can live up to that standard.  I can’t!  We, He+I, can!  We can move toward that goal (I being the one who is moving for He is already there).  If (and it is a big, hairy if) I can live in Him, be a branch to His vine, take my eyes from the evil around me and see the perfect goodness of Him, I have a chance.  That’s the only chance, I’ll ever have.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, it is very evident that the world is in dire need of forgiveness.  Yet we humbly confess that I/we do not first include ourselves as being ones so in need of forgiveness.  So we pray for You to pour out Your Spirit of forgiveness on us.  Yet Dear Father, we also confess we don’t truly forgive others with the same total forgiveness that You provide to us.  We hang on to resentment and bitterness.  We look to forgiveness as a way to further ourselves instead of the way to show true love and mercy to our brothers and sisters.  Teach us Dear Father, how to truly forgive.  How to be in the spirit with Your Son, Our Savior whose death and resurrection has brought forgiveness to us and an everlasting relationship with you.  That in our learning to truly forgive, we may come to further know You and spread Your Perfect Love to a world in such need of it.  That in all things Your Most Holy Name will be praised and in the Name of He who died to bring that forgiveness to us; Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen