“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).” Jesus’ intercession for his murderers, made as life flowed from his body, has long been problematic. There is something about our Lord invoking the promise of forgiveness for his crucifiers that vividly brings home the unbounded expanse of God’s love. If you find this unbearable, your discomfort might be mitigated in several ways. First, this verse does not appear in some of the early manuscripts of Luke’s gospel. There has also been supposition that Jesus is praying only on behalf of the criminals on either side of him, rather than for the accusers, judges and executioners, effectively limiting the scope of his intercession. In a forgiveness series I offered some years back,...
When is “the time fulfilled” with forgiveness? And what is its “holy ground?” The painfully honest, deeply hopeful story of Lamont Hatton and William Little shared in the Philadelphia Daily News several weeks ago (After 20 years) offers us access for exploring these questions in some depth. It is a story to be attentively received; and pondered. Let’s examine the power at work in the lives of these two: one, a killer who after a decade in prison returned home to engage a new way of living; the other, a person who had wanted to to take revenge on his brother’s killer for more than two decades but instead confronted him with forgiveness. Must there be a specific time and place to forgive? In March of...
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you . . . was not “Yes and No”; but in him, it is always “Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” – 2 Corinthians 1:19-20
A decade ago, on an early December day, I received a call from the local funeral director. A man from the neighboring town had died after an extended illness. He was a Vietnam veteran who had long suffered symptoms of trauma from his war experience. The family had no pastor: was I available? I was grateful for the opportunity. Meeting with his family, I received a deeper sense of the man, his substance, the impact of his life on those closest to him. What I remember most vividly, however, are his memorial service and the viewing that was held the night before. The latter took place at the funeral home, and was filled with fellow veterans. They were transparent in their woundedness, comforting the family...
“It is in the face-to-face with the impossible–the irreparable and the non-negotiable–that the possibility of forgiveness arises, and just when one feels one has reached the end of the road in making the last step, one finds oneself walking on, making the impossible step, turning aside, turning about, turning toward. One truly forgives only when one squarely faces the unforgivable. The grand gesture of public reconciliation and redemption has a strategic purpose, but it has little to do with forgiveness. For the debt of love knows no limit . . .” –Trinh Minh-ha