As our Lord Jesus hung on the cross He taught us true forgiveness. He taught us that forgiveness is giving up. His was a choice not a violation, extortion or resignation. He willfully chose to forgive.
And in this forgiveness He gave up three rights. The first right He gave up was the right not to hurt. He possibly gave it up the moment He decided to be incarnated, but truly the hurt, anguish and pain of carrying all the sins and its punishment on the cross cannot compare to all the sorrows He experienced up to that point. Isaiah identifies this giving up for us rather vividly (see below). Yes, the offense hurt you deeply. And only by a gush of grace will you be able to do what only Jesus can do: Forgive them in spite of the hurt. Yes, even after He said, “Father, forgive them,” He was still on the cross; still in agony; He was still hurting….
The second right our Master gave up was the right to make it right or to fix “it”. The relationship between Him and his creation was broken, and without the cross, it was irreparable. By hanging on that cross, He became that bridge of reconciliation for us. Yes, He did many healings and even a resurrection or two, but all these would get sick and die again. It is only after the cross in His resurrection are things made new—are fixed. St. Paul identifies this giving up in Colossians (see below). Yes, once the offense has taken place, the relationship, the item, the circumstance may remain broken beyond repair, but we can move on in the hope the resurrection power offers: One day this relationship, item or circumstance will be restored, but right now He has given us grace enough for the moment to dealing with the new relationship following a break….
The third right our Lord gave up was the right to get back. He could have warned them, “Just wait until I’m resurrected. Then you’ll know I am who I claimed to be; then you’ll bow before me!” Rather than immaturely taunting or threatening His adversaries—those who deeply wounded Him, He spoke words of forgiveness instead: “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34). Our brother, St. Peter, identifies this giving up in his first letter to us (see below). Yes, our knee-jerk response it to flinch in retaliation or burp a word of disgust. Yet once again, relying on the gush of grace the Lord Jesus’ Life provides for us, we can return blessing for insult and promise of hope for threat of harm. We entrust ourselves, as our Master did, to the One who can truly bring justice (1 Peter 2:23 below).
One final “give up” I’d like to mention, but request your thoughts on how this fits into forgiveness, and that is when we are told at the end of Jesus’ earthly life, He says: “ It is finished. With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30 emphasis added). The Greek word for “give up” is to “to hand over, to give.” Lifestyle worshiper, how do you see this act of Jesus’ Love, of giving up His own life, fitting into His grand act of forgiveness?
Main Text: — Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. [NIV84]
Additional Scriptures to Renew Our Thoughts
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. — Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV84)
… and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation —Colossians 1:20-22 (NIV84)
When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. — 1 Peter 2:23-24 (NIV84)
Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to forgive those who have hurt me, frustrated me, or disappointed me. I ask You to overwhelm me with a gush of Your grace to forgive them as You have forgiven me. In Your Name, Amen.