Today’s post is written by my friend, *Jean*. Thanks, Jean!
If you need me, I’ll be over at *Coffee Talk*. 🙂
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Last week I read The Shack by William P. Young. I recommend you read it with a box of tissues at hand.
There is much to say about The Shack, but that will have to wait for another day. Today I’ll focus on what I see as the main theme of the book. I see several, but I think the really big theme comes straight from this verse. It’s forgiveness.
In one of the last scenes the main character, Mack, is having an intimate conversation with God, who is gently leading Mack to a point of forgiving someone for a horrible deed. Mack just can’t bring himself to forgive this person.
At one point God says, “Mack, for you to forgive this man is for you to release him to me and allow me to redeem him.” Mack wasn’t too thrilled with that answer.
“Redeem him?…I don’t want you to redeem him!” Mack says.
Isn’t that what Jesus was doing here on the cross? Releasing the people who were crucifying him? Not releasing them from their guilt, but releasing them into the Father’s hands?
God continues with Mack, “Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver…to release you from something that will eat you alive; that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly.”
Hmmm. I can relate to that. Think, dear reader, have you ever held a grudge? I don’t mean for some petty slight. I mean have you held onto anger and fear, resentment, embarrassment, and bitterness because someone did something horrendous to you, or something unspeakable to someone you love? Forgiveness isn’t easy, is it? And it isn’t cheap either. It costs a great deal to forgive someone who wounds us deeply.
Something like the cost Jesus paid on that cross.
You see, Jesus knew the truth that Mack is just learning: forgiveness is first for the forgiver.
Yes, it releases the offender from our expectations of him or her. True, it releases that other person from our demands that he/she repent, or repay, or change in some way to merit our forgiveness.
But it first releases us, the offended. We are no longer held captive by the fear and anger, resentment and pain. We are no longer held hostage to the way that other person views us or treats us. When we can honestly say, like Jesus, “Father, forgive them,” we become free to see ourselves, and that other person, through God’s eyes. We become free to once again value ourselves as God values us, not as something damaged or dirty. We can measure our worth by the price Jesus paid for us, not by the trash heap someone else has dragged us through.
When we take the first step toward forgiving the unforgiveable our own healing can begin.
In his little book The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How Lewis B. Smedes closes with this thought:
“When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is us.” (Page 178)
Forgiveness frees us to remember who we are, and Whose we are. Forgiveness frees us from seeing ourselves as victims and prisoners under another person’s control. Forgiveness enables us to see ourselves as God’s beloved child, precious and beautiful to Him.
“Father, forgive them…” It’s the key to setting the victim free.
Dear Father, Please help me to forgive the hard stuff.
Thank you, Jean. This is a hard topic, especially for people who have been deeply hurt. But I have found – just as you wrote – there is freedom in forgiveness. I think sometimes, though, it comes in little bits, rather than all at once. We choose to forgive, and God helps us. But then, the hurt comes back, so we choose to forgive again, and God helps us again. Gradually, we find the pain isn’t so searing, and we don’t think of it nearly as often. That’s when we know we are being set free.
I really appreciate the perspective you have given on this verse, Jean. It IS a hard topic but one that every one of us has to face sooner or later.