Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Problem of Forgiveness

for they know NOT
what they DO."

That was Jesus' prayer on the cross for those who were torturing Him in the most inhuman manner imaginable. “Forgive them...” Jesus' compassion is perfect. Mine is not. You can't tell me that man who got behind the wheel despite the fact that he was so drunk he could barely walk didn't know exactly what he was doing. You can't tell me that man didn't know exactly what he was doing when he kidnapped that little boy and took his life. The truck driver who was in too much of a hurry to heed the stop sign... That surgeon with his 1%... The terrorists who carried out and plotted 9/11...

Don't tell me they didn't know exactly what they were doing!!! And if they didn't, they're guilty of a level of stupidity that ought to be punishable by law. It tears us up inside. Then we're asked, "How many days of our lives will we give to that person who did this horrible thing to us? He's not worth it." Yeah, we know that. But it's not about him, is it.

No, he's not worth it, but what happened to you is. What you've lost, the pain you have to feel now, the pain your loved one had to feel, THAT is worth thinking about every day forever because it's going to be there every day forever. It's worth yelling about, screaming about, complaining about, punching about, obsessing about. But what you're losing by obsessing about it isn't. Don't hold on to the hate: it's not worth losing the love. Don't hold on to the anger: it's not worth losing the happiness. No, I'm not asking that you force yourself be okay with the event that changed the rest of your life, or took the life of the one you loved. No one can do that. 

I AM ASKING YOU TO FORGIVE... whatever that means. Jesus made up for the sin that was committed against you. He died for it, and for the person who did it to you. It's an unpleasant thought at first glance, but it's true. Whether that person believes and receives the benefits of the forgiveness that Jesus earned for him isn't your problem. That's between him and God, and that's what you and I aren't supposed to judge.

The point is, forgiveness is a fact: forgiveness exists objectively apart from us, apart from our feelings, and apart from our hurt and anger. That person is forgiven whether you forgive him or not. I suppose the correct question for us to ask is, "How do you live with forgiveness when, because of what that person did, you can barely live at all?" Start this very second by changing your prayer from, “Punish him,” to “Vindicate me.” But know that vindication doesn't necessarily mean to make what happened to you happen to that person. And it doesn't necessarily mean that person would have as much trouble learning how to live with what he did to you as you do. "Vindication" and "Vengeance" are two different words conveying two different ideas.

VINDICATION means that what happened to you will be made right. Someone will make up for it, and that someone was Jesus. He cried for you. He suffered for you. He died for you. He's immensely sorry that your life has to be this hard, and He promises it won't last forever. VINDICATION also means that when that person meets Jesus on his deathbed, at that moment, he will finally know exactly what he did. He will finally understand the suffering he caused you, and the suffering he caused our Lord, his Savior. And he will kneel down in front of our Lord, and he will weep for what he did to you, and he will beg for forgiveness. 

Whether you desire to withhold it at that point or not doesn't matter, at least not for him. But it matters for you. There will come a time when each one of us will be on our knees in front of our Lord, with Satan looking on recounting everything we've ever done wrong in vivid detail. No, maybe we've never driven drunk or killed another human being outright, or even injured anyone, but what have we done?

Chosen to do something else for an hour on Sunday morning instead of worshiping the Son of God who died for us? Repeated unsavory gossip about our neighbor whom the Son of God loves enough to die for? Felt hatred for that young man with the bright blue mohawk and twenty-five piercings when all Jesus feels for him is love? Felt cheated by the wonderful, glorious gift of free and complete forgiveness God gave to the entire world because that means He also gave it to someone we hate?
Have we hated Jesus?

In the end, does it really make a difference whether we're the murderer set free, or one of the thousands in the crowd shouting, "Crucify Him!"? Jesus wasn't just praying for those who literally drove the nails into His innocent palms. He was praying for EVERY ONE OF US who put Him up there on that cross. It hurts. We hurt. Jesus knows that. He cried for what happened to you, and He cried for you. And He cried for the person who did this to you. That's the problem with forgiveness: in order to accept ours, we have to accept theirs.

Suggested verse to repeat if it's a difficult day is from Revelation 21:4.
PRC buddies, remember to breathe!
"God will wipe away ----------> 5 counts inhale
every tear from their eyes." ---------------> 5 counts exhale

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