This week in the GPS guide, as we approach Good Friday, we will have many opportunities to view Jesus’ example of forgiveness. As he hung on the cross, with criminals on his left and right, below him were the soldiers who had tortured him, humiliated him, and driven nails through his body. Now, as he hung there helpless and in tremendous physical and emotional pain, they were standing just below him casting lots for his clothing. And then Jesus prayed:
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
We have this example of extreme forgiveness in front of us this week, but if we are truthful, many of us will say that forgiving is hard. Most of us can think of at least one person we cannot honestly say we have forgiven completely for a serious wrong that has been committed. We try. In our minds, we can say we have forgiven and moved on. But in our hearts, we are still holding on to just a little bit of resentment, some coldness or hardness towards that person and the wrong that was done to us. When we are all alone and our minds wander to that incident, or those words that have hurt us, we may take them out and examine them once again and feel the same anger and lack of love and compassion for this person that we did when we were first hurt.
How do we find forgiveness? How do we get those thoughts and feelings of anger and resentment out of our hearts and minds? Jesus gives us the key to forgiving others right there in Luke 23:34. Jesus is hanging there on the cross, looking down on his torturers, and he prays for them.
If you struggle with forgiveness, as we all do at some point, try praying for the person you just can’t seem to forgive. It can be hard at first, and you may find yourself giving God a report on how this person hurt you instead of focusing your prayer on asking for healing and forgiveness for them, and for yourself. Maybe you could begin your prayer with Jesus’ prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive __________ . It is very hard to continue to hate and resent someone you are praying for every day. Go a little further. Try to find out what this person’s needs are, and pray for God to meet those needs – spiritually, emotionally and physically. As God to show you that person’s heart and mind so you may pray specifically for them. God’s healing and peace will come to you, and may very well come to this person who has hurt you. Here is a prayer that might get you started:
It feels impossible, O God,
totally beyond my reach,
to forgive what has been done to me.
You know my pain, you know the hurt I hold.
Surely you, O God, know the storm within my heart.
But I’m doubly caught in this bind,
snagged on the sacred fence of my friendship with your son Jesus,
who has told me I must forgive, seven times seventy times,
those who injure me, who cause me pain.
Caught between pain and pardon,
I wish to choose the way of pardon.
Nailed by pain to his cross,
covered by the spit of scorners and whipped by his torturers,
he prayed the impossible prayer.
This prayer is one I now desire to make mine,
“Father forgive him, her, them, for they know not what they do.”
O Infinite Sea of Mercy,
make this unworthy servant
the channel of your gift of pardon,
that I also may be healed
as your forgiveness passes through me to others.
(Prayers for a Planetary Pilgram, Edward Hays ©1989)