I was thinking about this after the McCain funeral and the reaction to it on both sides. Then there’s the Kavanaugh hearing. Then there’s the general crop of people who have decided they hate the other side. Then there was the Gary Kasparov tweet saying no one should ever forgive anyone who supported Trump.
Jesus of Nazareth, when nailed to the cross, summoned the strength to audibly say “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). We see something similar with the first martyr, Stephen, who cried out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)
Neither had any footnotes, qualifications, provisos, or parameters that they’d forgive when the offending party repented. Between God and man there must be repentance. But between two men, Jesus on the cross and Stephen the martyr, there is simply forgiveness.
The innocent man Jesus of Nazareth was beaten to within an inch of his life, tortured, had a crown of thorns placed on his head, and nailed to a cross. But even he could call upon God to forgive those who killed him. Stephen was stoned to death and cried out to God with his last breath to forgive his murderers. There was no “God forgive them, but only if they first apologize.” There was forgiveness.
If you really think you cannot forgive someone, you are saying that what they did to you was worse than crucifying Jesus. And if you really believe that, you don’t know what really happened that day in Jerusalem when the sky went dark.
So if you are really incapable of forgiving, ponder the cross and Jesus’s words.
We, individually, get eternity because of the empty tomb. We should not undermine the empty tomb or cast aside its importance for us. But we should not forget the cross and what it means to us as brothers and sisters on this planet. The empty tomb shows our eternal relationship with God. Yes, we must repent and we must believe and we will have eternal life.
But the cross shows how we should relate to each other. Father, forgive them. If you refuse to forgive them, you are letting them control you. We should not preach and teach the empty tomb at the expense of the cross right now in this environment. The empty tomb is everything. But so is Christ upon the cross.
Forgiveness does not mean you must like the person or trust the person. But it does mean you must relinquish their power over you. It does mean you must move on.
We could all stand to use a little more grace in how we deal with others, particularly in these times of heated political discourse. I tell my kids often what I will tell you — always be more forgiving and show more grace than you should ever expect anyone else to show you.
We are all sinners. We are all going to screw up. We are all going to hurt others and cause strife. We are sinners. None of us are innocent like Christ on the cross. He could forgive. Stephen could forgive. They could forgive without proviso, contingency, or condition.
Are we of more importance than them? No. So we should all be more full of grace than we are.