Forgive as We Have Been Forgiven
by June Hunt
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus uttered these words as he was suspended on a splintered cross, humiliated and in pain. How can anyone forgive while in the midst of such suffering? It seems an odd time to be dispensing forgiveness. Yet some of the last words of a dying man were every bit as powerful a message as when he washed the feet of his followers. It is a paradox of the divine heart and soul. But there’s more.
Jesus made a choice to forgive. In His statement from a bloodied instrument of torture, Jesus does something even more incongruous; he acknowledges that those executing him are doing so in ignorance. He cuts them some slack. It is a powerful point. It is our example. In a culture quick to affix blame, we are hard-pressed to excuse the behavior of others. We want justice for others, but not for ourselves. Instead, we want what Jesus offered those who were in the process of executing him; mercy.
In Forgiveness: the Freedom to Let Go (Aspire Press), June Hunt says, “Forgiveness is not based on what the offender does or deserves, but rather on giving the gift of grace to your offender.” She calls forgiveness both a choice and a process. “We may need to go through many bouts of forgiving as part of a process of forgiveness.”
In the first of three booklets released through Aspire Press, Hunt reminds us of the toxic link between unforgiveness and anger. “The human body,” she explains “has a physical reaction when it experiences anger.” In Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Hunt shows us how unforgiveness left unresolved eventually results in resentment and bitterness.
In a culture where road rage abounds along with school shootings and workplace violence, political pundits fixate their attention in all the wrong places. The remedy is self control. When God asked Cain why he was angry it clearly wasn’t because he was unaware of Cain’s disposition. He wanted Cain to acknowledge it. Only when we acknowledge our sin can we begin to deal with it. “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” The idea of self control or mastery seems evident to onlookers but as Hunt explains, in the midst of our anger we rarely think clearly.
If forgiveness seems an impossibly difficult and unnatural task, then God led the way by example. If anger seems justified because of injustices, then Christ showed us that real love covers a multitude of sins. The paradox of Christianity is that the very thing we feel like doing is exactly the thing God asks us not to do. As Hunt says, “Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice—an act of the will.” And one thing we can be sure of, forgiveness is never easy but it is always necessary.
References: Luke 23:34 (NIV) Genesis 4:7 (NIV)