“‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” Luke 23:34 (NIV)
The last sayings of Jesus on the cross are among the most profound statements of grace ever uttered. They reveal the very heart and character of God, His boundless love for mankind and His unrelenting grace! Nowhere is His deity and humanity more exposed than in those final six hours when He suffered and died for you and me. Jesus’ very first statement, recorded in Luke’s gospel, sets the tone and reveals the attitude of Christ toward His merciless offenders. In Luke 23:34,
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”
The natural man would have said, “Father, get them! Hurt them like they are hurting me! Let them have it!” Bitterness is a natural reaction to hurt. Forgiveness is a supernatural reaction. When Jesus prayed for His offenders and asked His Father to forgive them, He taught us all something about grace.
Grace means releasing my bitterness. Are you still holding onto hurt? Has resentment created a root of bitterness in your heart toward someone who offended you? The problem with holding onto hurt is that it empowers the one who hurt you. They maintain control over you. Forgiveness releases you from their control. They can no longer victimize you. Not only did Jesus teach us to forgive, but He taught us how by giving us a point of reference. The starting place to forgive others is found in Jesus’ prayer, which is often overlooked.
“‘… they do not know what they are doing.’”
That is not how we feel when we are hurt! On the contrary, it seems that the ones who have wronged us knew exactly what they were doing, and they did it intentionally! Here’s where we begin to understand the mystery of sin:
“Even when sin is calculated, planned thoroughly, conceived carefully, and executed efficiently, no one really understands the depth or dimension of sin’s destructiveness or the degree of its horrible damage to people. In a very real sense, every sin is a sin of ignorance.” 1 Corinthians 2:8 says,
“… for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
If you’ve struggled with forgiving others, or even forgiving yourself, here’s a starting point for you. Every sin I commit, or that is committed against me, is one of ignorance no matter how intentional it was. If I want to be free from bitterness, I must forgive in the same way I was forgiven. When I do, I experience an incredible release from the shackles of resentment.