“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”
Forgiveness may be the most misused, misapplied, and misunderstood quality in our culture. We think we know what forgiveness is all about, but we really don’t. Before reading further, take a minute to do this little quiz by deciding if each statement is true or false.
Most people don’t understand forgiveness. First, real forgiveness is unconditional. There’s no attachment to it. You don’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. You don’t bargain for it. Forgiveness is not based on a promise to never do it again. You offer it to somebody whether they ask for it or not. When Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” nobody had asked for it. Nobody had said, “Please forgive me, Jesus, for what we’re doing to you.” He just offered it. He took the initiative.
Forgiveness isn’t minimizing the seriousness of the offense. When somebody asks for your forgiveness and you say, “It’s no big deal. It really didn’t hurt,” that actually cheapens forgiveness. If it wasn’t a big deal, you don’t need forgiveness and you don’t need to offer it. If something really requires forgiveness, then you should not minimize it when somebody asks you for forgiveness.
But there is a difference in being wounded and being wronged. Being wounded requires patience and acceptance, not forgiveness, because the person did it unintentionally. Being wronged requires forgiveness.