"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" - Luke 23:34
This famous quote is from one of the most known stories, and the most famous being in the Christian faith. As people were crucifying the human life of Christ, he exemplified his spiritual deity by choosing to forgive everyone. And He appealed to His father for help, because He knew that a key factor of a loving God - and a loving Dad - is genuine forgiveness. I know this because I've seen it firsthand.
For many, MANY years, I have watched Mike Benjamin, time and time again, turn the other cheek. Like Peter probably thought as Jesus healed the soldier who would arrest him on trumped up charges, I often responded to my Dad with bewilderment: "how could you let them run all over you like THAT?" And with pained but peaceful eyes wrapped in love, my Dad would often remind me that forgiveness is the only way towards freedom. Whew.
Now this is not a performative forgiveness; on the contrary, this is a forgiveness that starts deep within - a complete, unshakeable belief that all that we see happening around us and to us is not the complete story about how life works out. No, life is more beautiful than the brokenness we've experienced, and as Bryan Stevenson wrote in Just Mercy: "each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done."
True forgiveness has never been about the outward display, but a reflection of the restorative work that has taken place in our hearts. The way we respond to pain received from a person who means to do us harm is the tip of an iceberg of what this life has always been about: reclaiming our innate worth through seeking reconciliation and receiving redemption. And how can redemption be obtained without the harm being addressed and forgiveness being extended?
"and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us." - Matthew 6:12
I've always resented the story of Jesus admonishing Peter after he jumps to Jesus' defense. Love my enemies? Nah, no thanks. But that's because I've been looking at the act of pain, and not the brokenness of the heart behind it -- a heart not unlike my own when I choose to be honest. What my father and other father figures have demonstrated through different challenges in their lives is that while this sharp pain of transgression must be addressed, I've first got to release the bitterness before it takes a foothold in my soul.
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Ephesians 4:31-32
Lately I've been resenting a lot, and I realized this because I was being SOOOOOOO cantankerous these past few weeks. Ask my parents and brothers, bless their hearts. 😅 So I decided to step all the way back, turn inward and seek God for the way out of bitterness and back into peace.
That's when I heard was the voice of Christ, the light in my darkness shouting:
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!"
No, this wasn't a message towards me, but a calling to show up like my God, my Dad, and many of the powerful men in my life have consistently shown me: to choose forgiveness is to acknowledge the pain, but then to reject bitterness and choose life, peace, wholeness and freedom instead. Like Jesus Christ did for me, and for you.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8
Choosing forgiveness is choosing my future.
*This* is the heart of a good father, and I'm glad to be his daughter.