This word can bring as much relief as it does tension. For me and my relationship with God, forgiveness is a joyous truth that I graciously am granted freely. But when the idea of "forgiveness" is paired with others who have hurt me personally over the years, it can be a tense subject that makes my heart heavy and my words few. The deeper the cut, the harder it is for us to forgive freely. Not only that, but it requires us to put aside our pride and show mercy to those whom we consider deserving punishment. It's so easy for us while considering forgiveness to make it an issue of "whether or not you deserve it." When quite frankly, if this was Jesus' attitude for us on the cross, we would be in a really big predicament.
"But Alexa, Jesus is God. He is able to forgive like that because He is perfect. He doesn't know what I've been through and how much ________ hurt me."
We as followers of Christ must stop using the "but that was Jesus" excuse. Jesus walked where we walked in order to show us how to walk and follow Him on this earth. He has never asked us to do anything that He hasn't already done. With that in mind, we need to pay more careful attention to what He calls us to do.
"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth."
-1 Peter 2:21–22
The word "example" means "writing under". Like a writing put on a piece of paper so that it may be traced to get the desired product with the same pattern. Jesus has set a pattern for us in how we are to live- especially in terms of suffering. He was the perfect one without sin, who came to save us from eternal death and yet He was mocked, laughed at, and crucified by those very same people He came to redeem.
We may think we have been treated unjustly, but no one has been treated more unjustly than Christ. And yet He still forgives.
"And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And they cast lots to divide his garments."
- Luke 23:34
We as Christians are called to not retaliate. That's not the Gospel. We don't pray for other's demise, we bless.
How is this possible?
"Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For 'Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.'"
- 1 Peter 3:9–12
Peter writes this because he knows it's hard. He knows himself, and he knows how the flesh works. Because we are sinful beings, it is not natural for us to refrain from retaliation. That self-control is a practice, deriving strength not from ourselves, but from the one who was able to conquer it. Jesus gives us the strength to fight this battle. He's there. He hears our cries, the deep groanings of the souls we cannot even hear (Rom. 8:26).
Jesus didn't revile the people who put Him on that cross. He asked His father to forgive them.
THIS is the strength Christ gives us.
THIS is the hope we have in Christ.
He knows that person who has wronged you in the past. He knows how much hurt you went through in that moment and how impactful it was to your life. That same strength He used in forgiving those who crucified Him, is the strength He gives to us in forgiving those who have wronged us.
And that's a truth we can rejoice in today. That our heartbreak, our hurt caused by someone else, or whenever we have been treated unjustly- Jesus can look at us and say "I know how that feels."
He's not just some "Holy being sitting on a cloud looking down observing your life from afar." He is a sympathetic God (Heb. 4:14–16).
He see's it, and He feels it because He's walked in those steps Himself.