But Jesus was saying, ” Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. (Luke 23.34)Have you every truly stopped and thought about that prayer?
You see, what strikes me as startling is that Jesus was asking God to forgive these specific individuals who were yet in a state of unrepentance. This flies in the face of much of what is taught today in modern Christianity about the nature of God’s forgiveness. Too many times it is taught that God only forgives those who repent. And this is used to justify ourselves in withholding forgiveness toward others till they repent. (If they don’t say they’re sorry, we don’t have to forgive them, and this I believe is truly disastrous.) But my question is this? Can we really believe that Jesus is the express image of God, that Jesus is expressing the heart of God in this prayer He prays while suspended on the Cross? Is God really this beautiful? Is there a sense in which God really has forgiven all? And can we live in that forgiveness and extend that same forgiveness toward others.
I have found in my own experience that we are truly very skilled in setting parameters around how “good” God truly is. And it takes courage to believe that God is as good and beautiful as He reveals Himself to be, especially on the cross. (I would like to encourage all to go back and listen to the presentation we have on our website entitled Charizomai, where this concept of forgiveness is covered in more detail,)
There is an aspect of Forgiveness in the New Testament where forgiveness is simply the releasing of someone who owes you a debt. It doesn’t matter whether the person wants to be released or not. It doesn’t matter if they have repented or not. It doesn’t matter whether that person is willing or refuses to reconciled or not, there is an aspect of God’s forgiveness that is unilateral, unconditional and universal. And although there are aspects of God’s forgiveness that intrinsically require our involvement (i.e. our faith, repentance, and confession), there are other aspects that do not. They are universal! They have already transpired in God’s heart for everyone, repentant or not!
Jesus over and over in His ministry revealed that God’s attitude toward all is forgiveness. Many times people weren’t even asking for their sins to be forgiven, Jesus simply volunteered it saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” Not as a carrot, to motivate a response, but simply as an already occurred fact to which Jesus was simply communicating the news.
On the cross Jesus is not praying for God to forgive them if they repent, He is simply saying Father forgive these unrepentant ones. We find this same kind of prayer in the death of Steven when he too was being murdered. Jesus and Steven both were simply saying, “Father, let this go, release them of this. Even though they have not repented, God please don’t hold this against them, let this go.” This is the type of forgiveness that flows from Calvary and I believe it’s truly beautiful. But do we realize what this means?
In Jesus’ name and on the authority of the Cross, dear reader, It doesn’t matter who you are and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, God is not holding your sin against you. The Father Forgives you. (see 2 Corinthians 5:19) The abortions you’ve had. The Father forgives you. Maybe it’s a relationship you destroyed or a person you harmed, the Father forgives you. Maybe it’s a wasted life with drugs or substance abuse, the Father forgives you. Maybe it’s sexual promiscuity, the Father forgives you. Maybe it’s a marriage you walked away from and family you destroyed, right now, the Father releases you from that, He doesn’t hold that against you. The murder you committed, maybe a child you killed while driving drunk, you may owe a debt to society, but from your heavenly Father, He releases you. Every lie you’ve ever told, every piece of gossip or slander you have spread, every pronouncement of self righteous judgment you’ve pronounced on others, you’re released. He’s not holding that against you. Receive that. Walk in it. It’s time to be done carrying that baggage around all your life. Every sin of every person throughout history, on the authority of Calvary, we can say to all, “You are released!”
Yes, your sin may be very, very bad. But will you trust that God’s mercy, God’s grace, God’s forgiveness is greater than your sin? That where sin abounds His grace much more abounds! Will you receive that grace today?
Look to the cross and hear me, The Father Forgives you. You are released. This is not going to be held against you. There may be all these “buts” going off in your head right now, but will you hear the voice of the Lord saying right now, “Trust me, just trust me, you’re released.” If you are not reconciled into salvation with God, it’s is no longer because of your sin. That issue has been dealt with by God on Calvary. If any are lost at last, it will only because they refused to be reconciled.
Receive His forgiveness. Live in the year of Jubilee! All charges are dropped. All debts cancelled. All rights of restitution relinquished. The creditor [God] has born the loss, and debtors [us] can now go free. THIS is what Calvary is all about! THIS is the gospel!
And in light of how God has released you in this way, will you too extend this same kind of letting go to others. Will you release all others of all debt? I pray you will. This is what it means to imitate God. (More on that next week.)
I wish you God’s best this week. Walk in God’s forgiveness. And go enlarge the kingdom!