You can’t discuss forgiveness without bringing up Jesus’ name. In the passage below, Jesus is placed on a cross between two criminals sentenced to death. When Pilate, the governor, gave Jesus a chance to defend himself against trumped up accusations, he remained silent, accepting the fate and plan God set forth. While all this was happening, Jesus emulated the love of God by forgiving those who didn’t deserve it.
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left, Luke 23:32-33.
Captain George Kendall was the first person to executed in America. Influenced by leaders in Great Britain, Kendall was hung in 1608 at the Jamestown colony in Virginia. Today, 31 states have the death penalty as a punishment for those individuals who have taken another life. This principle is based upon Jewish law, part of the Torah that Moses passed down for future generations, “life for life, death for death.” However, the New Testament conveys a new message, Romans 6:23, the gift of God, Jesus Christ who paid the price for all past, present and future transgressions.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One,” Luke 23:34-35.
Unfortunately, if you listen to the media and political pundits, forgiveness is a lonely word. Instead, condemnation, demonizing and judging individuals is a daily ritual. This relentless attack is void of grace and mercy. If Jesus can forgive the people who beat, crucified and mocked him, there must be room in our hearts to forgive those who hurt us. Remember, forgiveness is conditional based upon how you forgive others, Matthew 6:14-15. Despite whatever rationale you may have devised, the golden rule still remains the standard to live by, treating others as you want to be treated. Therefore, bear with one another, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the benchmark which enabled Jesus to forgive those who didn’t deserve it.
by Jay Mankus