Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing. (Luke 23:34)
Something very hard to do. But so important that Jesus spoke these words from the cross; the first of all the words He spoke from the cross.
There was a woman in a Bible study class, years ago. She told how her son had died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. She told how she thought of that man who had killed her son, practically every waking moment of her life; how she talked to him, wondered what he was doing, what he thought of her and of her son. She came to the Bible study and slowly learned about God manifested in Jesus, and she came to understand that what she had really done, focusing all her being on that man, was to make him into God. She said, “I made that man my God.” She realized that it should have been God on whom she focused all her attention; God to whom she talked, wondering what He did, or thought of her, or of her son; wondering what He wanted of her. By being unforgiving, she had made a man into her God. When she forgave the man, she set herself free to get God’s healing for her grief.
What we do when we don’t forgive is that we make people or events into the focus of our being. When we hold a grudge, or put anger or sorrow or bitterness in our life because of someone’s harming of us, even horrible harming, we take our eyes off God. When we don’t forgive, we allow our lives to be manipulated by whomever we hold responsible for our harm. We have knee jerk reactions to people, or places, or events, or fears, and we are not free to be who God made us to be. We serve the unforgiven.
In the Greek, the word for “sin” is “hemartia” which means, “missing the mark.” When we sin, we miss the mark. The mark is God, and God’s plan and purpose for our lives. God is the bulls-eye. When we hold on to another person’s or event’s harming of us, we make them into God. We focus on them. And we take our eyes off the bulls-eye of the Real God: the One in the Center; the One who loved us so much a Son was sent to show us how to do this living thing, without sin.
Jesus never took His eyes off the bulls-eye, the Center, the One, God…and He knew that if He could not forgive Peter for denying Him three times, or Judas for betraying Him, or the disciples for deserting Him, or even Adam and Eve for the fall which created the need for Him to come and die on our behalf; if He had not forgiven even us, for our small and large “missing the mark”s, He would have taken His eyes, the eyes of His heart, off of God, and put them on us, and He would have sinned. He would have missed the mark. But He was without sin. He never took His eyes off His Father. Even on the cross.
Who needs your forgiveness? From whom do you need to set yourself free, so you can focus again on God? Say, each night, before you go to sleep, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing,” and you will find that one day, you will be set free to focus your living on God.
Another small thing. When I first came to California, in 1988, with my 11 year old daughter in tow, still officially married to the husband who was becoming more and more abusive, near my big brother who was busy with his own life and family, working at the grocery store in a job that was kicking my butt, I had a lot of forgiving to do. And one morning, in that space between waking and sleeping, God let me know a very important thing: “Forgive Everyone, Especially Yourself.”
Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing. And teach me to forgive myself.