These are a few of the things most of us have experienced and find difficult to forgive. These are also things we read that Jesus experienced in the hours immediately following His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Betrayed by Judas. Abandoned by His closest friends. Unjustly tried and convicted. Mocked and abused by soldiers and various onlookers. This was Jesus’ final experience of humanity before His death.
A God of wrath would lash out and rid His creation of these monsters who so horribly mistreated His perfect Son. A just God would have sent fire from heaven to burn up these mockers where they stood and proclaim that Jesus is indeed king. Unless….perhaps God’s justice does not look like our own.
“Yes, God is merciful but He is also just.”
Anyone ever heard this line before? As if God’s justice is the opposite end which balances out His mercy to keep us all from going too wild. But Colossians 2:9 tells us that, “in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity (God) lives in bodily form.”
Think about that for a moment. In Christ, ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD LIVES in bodily form. Not just the yin side while the father brings the yang/hammer. ALL…every bit of the fullness of God is revealed to us in Christ Jesus.
So when Jesus responds to the most evil act ever seen throughout human history, the murder of God, with forgiveness (Luke 23:34), we can rest assured that this is how God has, does and will always respond to evil. In the words of Michael Gungor, “His judgement comes to us, and His judgement is love.”
We must not take another breath without realizing that this is the essence of who God is. God is not at His core, forced to balance some cosmic scales. God is at His core, seeking relationship with His children. The scales will be balanced and justice will be served when God can hold all of His children in His arms.
“Oh but those people have to get what’s coming to them!” Who? Me? I hope not. I have done my share of dirt. I was once a violent young man who preyed on those I perceived to be weaker than I. When I realized God forgave me for all of that it absolutely demolished everything I used to be. As Romans 2:4 tells us, “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.”
Kindness, forgiveness, tenderness, loving wisdom. These are the traits I desire as a father of two small boys. I want my boys to grow up saying that this is the kind of father they had. I believe being that kind of father would be a good gift to give to my boys. Let us hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” God is an infinitely better Father than I could ever dream of being. His forgiveness has no end. When we shout for justice, God shouts for mercy. Mercy is the very essence of who God is. Healing, love, redemption, reconciliation, mercy…these are the things at the center of the divine.
So what does this say for us? Well, a few things. First, we must know that we are forgiven. Sometimes, receiving forgiveness is the hardest thing in the world to do. Know that you are forgiven friends, and release yourself from the weight of past transgressions. Unless we forgive ourselves for the things we have done, we will never be free.
Take a minute before we finish. Step away from the computer or put down your phone. Wherever you are, step away from the action of the world going on around you. Close your eyes and inhale God’s goodness and forgiveness and affirmation of you, then exhale all the things you have held onto that you have said or done that were destructive. Do it again. Inhale God’s mercy, exhale your sins. Inhale God’s grace; exhale your judgement of yourself. Hear the voice of the Father calling you, beckoning you to come and rest on His lap. Feel His breath on the back of your neck. Know that God is with you. Know that God is for you.
Now, the other thing this says for us is we must release those who have sinned against us. That pastor who abused their authority, that parent who abandoned you, that man who hurt your friend, all of them. We have to. It’s the only way to walk in freedom. Now you may say, “I’m just not ready to forgive them.” That is understandable. But I honestly do not think we are ever “ready” to forgive. Not really. Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness does not mean bringing toxic people back into our life. Forgiveness means that we hope the best for them. Forgiveness is to let go of our desire for worldly justice or karma to come to this person.
No matter the situation, no matter how deep the pain or how long the scar, forgiveness is a part of the path to healing. Our God is a forgiving God. Let us ponder His goodness this week as we both receive and give away forgiveness. Breathe in. Breathe out. Give mercy, as mercy has been given to you. Amen.