Forgiveness is multi-dimensional, encompassing three distinct experiences in our way into freedom. Forgiveness is not a moral issue; it’s a control issue. Jesus’ last seven words on the cross demonstrate this paradigm and will help us as we follow Him, picking up our cross.
Of course forgiveness can be instant, someone took my parking space or I chose the wrong line to stand in. I can forgive these instances quickly, or they can trigger a much deeper resentment that I am carrying, and instead release rage. Where we have been abused, controlled, betrayed, or where expectations were not met, and especially where this has occurred time and again for sustained periods of our life, forgiveness may not be instant. It will be a process.
Forgiveness demonstrated by Jesus on the cross can be seen in three experiences, I will call them: Choosing, Losing, and Committing
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus declared as the Roman soldiers hoisted Him up, His hands and feet nailed to the cross. We begin all forgiveness with CHOICE! This choice is empowering and will often lead to freedom for others. Jesus released the thief from His guilt with a promise of paradise. He also made provision for His mother to be cared for by John. But then came darkness.
For three hours the world sat in utter darkness as Jesus hung on the cross. His soul, in utter darkness cried out with bewilderment, pain, confusion, and loss, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Here all the empowerment had become abandonment.
We feel and experience – Losing – in the dark night of our soul. How could this happen to me? Where is God in this? Where is justice? All the feelings of loss now find their way, surfacing in our soul’s agony.
Abandonment is heard in Jesus’ words, “I thirst.” His humanity comes forward, as well, in the words, “It is finished.” I know there is covenant and scripture fulfillment in these words, but they are also Jesus’ soul in travail, as He pours out His soul unto death.
In this losing dimension of forgiveness our loss comes full circle. We may think we haven’t forgiven—but we have. We are experiencing the loss of what has happened. It can be bewildering, as we find ourselves facing emotions and questions we would rather not feel.
Then comes release.
Jesus looked up to heaven, and with a loud voice cried out, “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
- Forgiveness begins with a choice to release the guilty party
- Enters into the experience of the actual loss and abuse suffered
- Concludes with releasing self into God’s hands
Jesus was not praying for us. He was praying for Himself. He was COMMITTING His spirit into His Father’s hands. This is where letting-go had become His freedom. He was committing His future into His Father’s hands.
Choosing, loosing, and committing can happen in an instant or over time. Jesus took six hours in His conversation. He understands the process, the pain, the loss, and the final outcome of committal.
- He can help us choose to forgive
- Ask the questions we must, even accusing God of forsaking us
- And finally lead us to committing our spirit, our future, our whatever, into the hands of our Father.
Then begins resurrection.