We are drawing near to Easter, the time of the sacrificial love of our Father, God in Jesus, Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man.
God’s children often see the cross as punishment taken by Christ upon Himself, dwelling so much on punishment and guilt (which were inflicted and caused by mankind) that we miss the much greater love that He showed.
I wrote of this love in How we Love Children, The World God Loved and So Loved, and today begin a series of posts which you will find under the ‘Dame Julian‘ tab above. Dame Julian had a wonderful revelation of our Father’s love for us which I am trying to put into modern form interwoven with thoughts her writing inspired in me.
I will still continue my usual blog posts every two weeks or so. Today I want to pass on something that causes problems for many people – the difficulty of forgiving and our sense of failure when we cannot forgive.
How often have we heard someone say, ‘I can forgive but I can’t forget’? How many little incidents are there that memory, like an internal vicious gossip, brings to the fore? undeserved slights, retorts we should have made but were just not quick enough, ill treatment or slanders against those we love?
Forgiveness is not easy. It comes hard. For hard reasons. It is hard to do. So much so that when parents forgive the killer of their child, or the victim of an atrocity forgives the perpetrator, it makes headline news. We may find it hard to believe.
And Easter, when ‘Christ died for our sins’ (our sins, but why can’t I forget theirs?). Does that wipe it all away, or does it all return like chronic pain?
‘If you are bringing a gift to the altar and you have enmity with your brother, leave your gift at the altar. Go and make peace with your brother and then return and offer your gift.’
We cannot buy peace of mind with a gift to Christian Aid or the church building fund. It has been bought already, at great cost. We need to pass it on.
‘Yes Lord, but some things are too hard, or have been borne for too long, or it is too late, or I JUST CAN’T DO IT!’
What can the Cross possibly offer for that? Every Easter we bear a cross of our own, on which our lack of forgiveness is nailed. What does Christ on the Cross offer us for that?
One thing. A little, tiny thing, so small that no-one else seems to have noticed it. Come with me to the foot of the Cross and I will show you.
Listen. What did he say about those who crucified him? Don’t listen to what people tell you he said. They will tell you he forgave them. But listen. What did he say?
He said, ‘Father forgive them…’ not, ‘I forgive them, Father…’ He committed their forgiveness to his Father. You may take from that whatever it gives you but one thing it cannot give us is the power to do more than he did in that moment. There are times when forgiveness can be, and needs to be, placed into our Father’s hands. Whatever our weakness, He is strong. His crucifixion was an act of sacrificial love. All forgiveness must be born of love.
We are not Christ but at Calvary elements combine: The crucifixion is the greatest thing a man has done for all humanity, the greatest thing a man has done for God, and the greatest thing our Father, in Christ, has done for us. He and the Father are one in love, and want, more than anything, that we share and return that love. If we are to be changed by the Cross it is not only from our sins, but from our failure to forgive the sins of others. If we surrender this to our Father, not with an angry, ‘God forgive you!’ but with an anguished desire and a regret for our own failing, we may find we are less troubled by our inability.
There is another element to this. Peter once asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who wrongs him and asks to be forgiven, quoting a figure more than double that mentioned in Amos and was effectively told the number was unlimited. The salient point, however, was that forgiveness had to be asked for. There are times, and the crucifixion was one, in which forgiveness was not asked. Then it had to be entirely committed to God.
When we are tempted to say, ‘I may forgive but I cannot forget.’ we usually mean we can neither forgive nor forget. Do not try to forget, forgetting may not be possible. Remember the most important thing and commit forgiveness and your inability to forget, humbly to God.