Father forgive them for they know not what they do

Stephen Foster

Rev Canon Dr Stephen Foster
Anglican Co-ordinating Chaplain

One of the hardest concepts that humanity deals with is that of forgiving the other person unreservedly. It is no less hard for the Christian and yet the Christian has been set an eternal example in Christ. Why do we find forgiveness so hard?

Often the root causes for non-forgiveness are our own sense of place and needing to seem strong to the outside world, all wrapped up in what falls within the orbit of out ‘pride’. We are also tempted to traverse the worldly route of non-forgiveness with the lure of financial rewards through a prevalent claim-culture which suggests that this is nothing less than the norm and our right.

In terms of type of the sins we are asked to forgive, in our hard-heartedness, we forget that we have often committed exactly the same sin which we are so unforgiving of in others. Also we too easily forget that in the Lord’s Prayer we are told that it is only in the same measure that we forgive, that we will realise the forgiveness of God. We live in a litigious society where apology and a seeking after forgiveness become almost unheard of graces… these being drowned out by the diverting of blame elsewhere, for fear of positional or financial vulnerability.

Paradoxically, to hold one’s hand up… to recognise and admit to our need for forgiveness… to publically apologise these days is therefore that much more spiritually powerful. Also, to clearly affirm our forgiveness of the other when the ‘natural’ reaction would be for a ‘pound of flesh’ in retribution has similar spiritual power.

Of course such a grace we think must be accomplished after ‘careful thought’ and a ‘weighing up’ of the ‘pros and cons’ as far as say our reputation, is concerned…w e cannot appear to be a ‘soft touch’.

But, in this scene from the Cross, Jesus simply and unwaveringly goes the extra mile.

The Son of God actually forgives those who are crucifying him while they are actually in the process of committing such an unjust and cruel atrocity.

To forgive totally, eagerly and indeed almost automatically, without blame or the need for penitence is the place where Jesus is… despite being in his greatest agony.

The forgiveness of the crucified Jesus is embracing, immediate and total. Our forgiveness of others in similar vein would be a faithful expression of the power of the Cross and a real thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us as he dies upon it.

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