Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Luke 23:32 – 34 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Yesterday we learned that we are to forgive others who have sinned against us in the same way that Christ forgave us for sinning against Him. I suspect that most of us assume that means the sinner has repented. But what if they have not repented? What is to be my attitude towards the person who has sinned against me, hurt me, and offended me, yet refuses to see that they have done anything wrong?
A little girl in a Sunday School class was asked to explain forgiveness. After stumbling a couple of times and struggling to find just the right words, she blurted out, “You know, it’s like the smell the flowers in my mommy’s garden give off when I stomp on them.”
That’s perfect! That’s what Jesus did when He went to the cross. That’s what we are to do when others are stomping on us. We are to smell like the fragrance of God’s love.
Before Louis XII became King of France he suffered great indignities and cruelties at the hand of his cousin Charles VIII. He was slandered, thrown into prison, kept in chains and was in constant fear of death. When he succeeded his cousin to the throne, his close friends and advisers urged him to seek revenge for all these shameful atrocities.
In what at first appeared to be an acceptance of their advice, he prepared a list of all the names of men who had been guilty of crimes against himself. Behind each name they noticed he was placing a red cross. His enemies, hearing of this list and the red cross placed behind each name by the king himself, were filled with dread alarm. They thought that the sign of a cross meant they were thereby sentenced to death on the gallows. One after the other they fled the court and their beloved country. But when King Louis XII learned of their flight he called for a special session of the court to explain his list of names and the little red crosses.
“Be content, and do not fear,” he said in a most cordial tone. “The cross which I drew by your names is not a sign of punishment, but a pledge of forgiveness and a seal for the sake of the crucified Savior, who upon His Cross was willing to forgive all His enemies.”
It is a very much like Christ to forgive others who have sinned against us and then repented of that sin. It is more like Christ to ask the Father to forgive those who have sinned against us without their need for repentance.
It is our human nature to presume premeditation and demand penalty. In contrast, it is the fullness of the Spirit of God in us that assumes innocence because of ignorance. From our perspective the person who hurt us has sinned. Our flesh is motivated by self-protection and the desire for dignity and respect. We seek justice. But Christ shows us how to see their actions from His perspective. To be like Christ is to consider others before ourselves. When we begin to see others in the bondage of their ignorance of God, we begin to be filled with the compassion of Christ. Compassion motivates an entirely different response than our flesh. Compassion steps out of the shallowness of our selfish desires and dives into the depths of another person’s need – the need for light and truth.
This is so liberating. We no longer need to satisfy the desires of the flesh. We do not need our dignity repaired. We do not need our reputation restored. We do not need to see justice enforced. We are free from the bondage of self-fulfillment. Because we are in Christ, we have been fully qualified as children of God with an eternal inheritance with all the saints in glory. Because we are complete in our stand with Christ, we can relate to others the way Christ did – with understanding, compassion, and grace. Our passion for the reconciliation of people with people will be fulfilled when we seek the reconciliation of people with God. Bringing peace between people is only possible when people are at peace with God.
This is the fragrance that came from the life of Christ as He was stomped on at the cross. Let it be the fragrance that comes from our lives as well.