Mike’s Meditations: Be Vulnerable with Your Forgiveness


by Mike Van Vranken

If you are like most of us, there has been a time in your life when you had trouble forgiving someone. The words forgive and forgiveness are used throughout the Bible, and Jesus gives it a prioritized place of honor when he tells Peter to forgive seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22). In other words, the benchmark is unlimited forgiveness. At other times, he declares: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7); and “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). We know these words of Jesus explain how we are to treat others, but they are much easier to say than do.

That’s true for us, anyway. But for Jesus – the Christ – mercy and forgiveness were his nature, his essence. It’s who he was and is. Let’s look at an example.

Luke’s account of the crucifixion begins: “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do.’ They divided his garments by casting lots” (Luke 23:33-34).

They all get to the place of Christ’s crucifixion, they nail Jesus and the two criminals to crosses, and Luke tells us that Jesus immediately asked his Father to forgive them. Forgive whom? If taken in the strictest context within the crucifixion story itself, Jesus has to be asking the Father to forgive the two criminals, right?

Yes, I do believe Jesus is asking for forgiveness for the church leaders who turned him over to Pilate and Herod. And yes, I also believe he wants mercy for those in the crowd who yelled and demanded his execution. Further, I believe he was begging his Father to forgive the Roman soldiers who were carrying out this “capital punishment.” But, the way Luke has written this, I also believe that he wanted us to be equally sure that Jesus was forgiving the two criminals as well. He mentions the criminals and immediately says Jesus prays for their forgiveness. Luke waits another five full verses before describing how the one criminal taunts Jesus and the other asks for mercy. But here in verses 33 and 34, Jesus says: “forgive them.” He doesn’t seem to exclude anyone. It appears to me that he’s forgiving the entire bunch. And there is absolutely no indication, at this point, that anyone has asked for forgiveness or mercy.

I’m fully convinced that part of Jesus’ mission was to show us how to live, not only spiritually, but also as human beings. He told us to forgive, but on the cross, he shows us how to do it. In other words: he demonstrates we are to forgive everyone. This is where we usually say: “Yeah, but Jesus was God!” While true, we also believe he was fully human. And in his full humanity, Luke sees Jesus as forgiving everyone in sight. There is just no end to his mercy (Lamentations 3:22).

If all of this makes you feel uncomfortable; if it seems impossible, then this is good subject matter for your next prayer period. Take Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness and tell God how it makes you feel. Do you find it makes you sad because it’s difficult? Or a little depressed because there is that one person you don’t want to forgive? Have a very frank and honest conversation with God about it. It’s ok; He’s heard it all before. In fact, like any loving parent, God cherishes those moments when we come to Him vulnerable, with our guard down, spilling our heart out onto His loving lap. Then, after you’ve exhausted all that you have within you and laid it out before Him, just sit in His grace-filled silence and allow Him to heal you; to love you; to transform you.

It may take a while. It may even take several prayer sessions with Him. But be assured, the Holy Trinity is moving and even dancing within you, allowing the unique, divine person that is you to rise to the top and be manifested as your new self. Of course, it’s really not a new you – it’s the real you – in all of your humanity – shining as the light of Christ – for all the world to see. •

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