By human standards it should never have happened. Today’s philosophy would demand one to get even and pay back with a vengeance, or to bring a lawsuit to inflict as much monetary misery as possible. But the incredible story of God’s redemption and restoration is played out to its final conclusion with, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. The cross continues to be an enigma today.
This narrative of forgiveness is often repeated throughout the Bible to those that do not deserve forgiveness or mercy, and it is still being replicated today in those looking to mirror Jesus’ life. It is a story that cannot be understood by those wanting to suppress the theme of the love of Christ.
A missionary traveled to North Korea and had special permission from the government to bring some humanitarian aid to the location, a miracle all by itself. A stoic looking Communist guard stared emotionlessly at the missionary for the short trek across a waterway. When the missionary was about to get off the barge, the soldier asked in broken English,
“Why, yes,” the missionary replied a little nervously.
The guard smirked a bit, and grunted, “You forgive.”
One could hardly find a more dynamic and powerful testimony as the affirmation from a North Korean communist guard that sums up the message of Christ by acknowledging, “You forgive.”
There is difficulty grasping the concept of forgiveness that is replicated innumerable times by those embracing the concept of forgiveness from Christ. A passive observer just cannot understand that grace and mercy which drives the fundamental trait of forgiveness is a critical cog for redemption and restoration. This is a benefit for both victim and perpetrator.
Proof is in the transformation of lives that takes place regardless of the improbability of human nature to be able to change. Parables in the Bible as the unmerciful debtor, prodigal son, and the sins of King David demonstrate that God is primarily interested in redemption and restoration once true repentance is realized.
The past of Bible figures is a sordid mix of people locked into lifestyles that would typically guarantee destruction if left to their own devices. Rahab the harlot and Gomer the wife of Hosea are examples of people locked into a sinful lifestyle having no hope or ability to make a change. Womanizing Samson was a judge of Israel, but he had a difficult time changing his life of sexual immorality.
Saul of Tarsus was a conniving self-righteous Pharisee of a man who arranged the persecution of Christians while “doing the work of God”. Killing, torture, and arresting Christians to be thrown into prison could put Saul on par as an ISIS tormentor.
Surely these people deserved punishment and could never be used by God as vessels of honor. God should have sent these evil people to the infernal regions post haste.
What should have been the end of the story for so many people is not the end of the story. As the Scriptures declare, “it is God’s desire that none perish”.
It is difficult to comprehend why God would love His creations that were so unlovable, but that is the mystery of God’s agape love. We lack the capacity to understand that kind of love and it must be imputed by the Holy Spirit by another miracle which defies our knowledge. Allegedly the angels in heaven are in wonderment when the transaction that rebirths the spirit takes place.
Ever since the relationship between God and mankind was disconnected by the actions of Adam and Eve, the Bible is a remarkable story of God’s redemption and restoration of mankind. It is an amazing feat of not interfering into the affairs of people or overriding their free will. God is an interested force, but does not force His will on anyone.
“By their fruits you shall know them” is one of many measurements Christ gave to distinguish an authentic believer from a counterfeit one. A person’s values, speech, and behavior should be impacted once a rejuvenated spirit is given.
When things do go wrong, and they surely will, how one navigates through the tribulation will also reveal who they really are. This test will disclose who they really are as a child of God. Anyone can display admirable traits when things are going great. It is when things are not going well that people will show who they really are.
God expects believers to ever be ready to be Christ like by showing grace, forgiveness, and mercy to those that do not deserve it. The ability to allow those that stumble an opportunity to redeem themselves and restore the broken trust and confidence when they sin, make mistakes, or falter with responsibilities is a difficult lesson to learn and apply.
Jesus was betrayed, denied, not believed, or misunderstood by the hand-picked 12 disciples that were no better or worse than the people they ministered to. Christ was there to encourage, cheer, and admonish His apostles to elevate their thinking and spirituality. Jesus never reminded them of their failures, but challenged them to embrace the future with high expectations and faith.
The first message Jesus preached was to repent, change the way you think, for the kingdom of God was at hand. The old system of retribution and being locked into a deadly no hope lifestyle could be changed. Believers were told to be not conformed to this world, but be transformed in the renewing of their mind.
This is the first step towards redemption and restoration of what was lost in the garden of Eden.