Easter reminds us of many aspects of God’s saving grace manifest in the cross of Christ, and of Christ’s divinity to defeat death. It also reminds us of a very basic yet thoroughly cogent concept: forgiveness — which is not about what the other person does or has done.
Forgiveness is more essentially about how we see their attributions of themselves and God than it is about us. This is proven the instant we see how indiscriminate they are in hurting those around them. Their hurting us isn’t as personal as we reckon it to be. Their hurting us is more about what’s going on inside them — their inability to see — or, their incapacity to care.
A person’s inability to see is fundamentally about what God gives them to see.
A person’s incapacity of care is quintessentially about their lack of love for themselves.
As we accept these truths, we are given to one more fact of merciful mastery.
As Jesus was nailed to the cross, the later manuscripts say, he cried out, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Our betrayer, our heckler, our accuser, our enemy has the very same problem — they simply do not know what they are doing!
Test it out if you doubt the veracity of my claims.
Take the person who just doesn’t see the hurt they’ve caused. Another way of putting it is, they do not know what they are doing or have done. They are blinded to it. They cannot see what is so obvious to us and others. There is no coercing them, either. We can rightly say, “Father, forgive them — and help me to forgive them — because they don’t know what they’re doing!” But there are consequences for such people: we don’t trust them anymore; they’re maligned; their credibility is dashed. Yet, they can be forgiven, because they do not yet know the weight of their fault.
If they sit on the more sinister side of the fence — they do know what hurt they’ve caused, yet they don’t care — they are affected similarly. They do not know — in their arrogant inconsideration — what consequences they’re storing up for themselves in heaven — and probably later in this life, too! They are too morally blind to care. We should pity them, for when God gets his hands on them they’ll know, alright! These people can be forgiven, because God’s justice is a solid and lasting justice. It always is.
The point of forgiveness — all the foregoing disregarded for the moment — is, we take the power and make the betrayer, the heckler, the accuser, our enemy, powerless. They have attempted to trump us with a commanding assault. But what can they verily do to us, whose thoughts and ways are higher than theirs? (Isaiah 55:8-9) When we opt to obey God we adopt his thinking, and that is the way to the surest victory.
Jesus forgave those who betrayed him because they didn’t know what they were doing. Our betrayers, alike, do not know. They don’t see or they don’t care. We cannot resent people for what God hasn’t revealed to them. But we can pity those whose justice is still coming. The Day of the Lord is terrible, indeed! (Joel 2:11)
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.