PRAYER, FORGIVENESS, AND REST

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Exhausted. Have you ever felt that way after forgiving someone? When you’ve been the one hurt, offended, aggrieved or wounded, was it easy to forgive? Or did you feel like it was the last thing on earth you wanted to do, but you grudgingly knew the Father’s will: to forgive.

I wonder if Jesus’ passionate prayer struggle in Gethsemane had anything to do with the immense energy it would take for him to forgive the entire human race of their rebellion, sin of massive proportions. How did his task compare with the relatively small grievances I have had to forgive? Listen to his prayer:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” And a second time: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” And a third time, “Abba, Father…everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

When we forgive, we release our offender from our own judgment and leave them to the justice of God. But when Jesus forgives, he takes on the very debt the offense imposes. We begin to realize that the burden of forgiveness Jesus shouldered was not only extensive but also intensive. All of humankind is included in the remittance; and every person’s debt should warrant a death penalty.

What is the point in looking at the depth of the cost to Jesus of forgiving our rebellious race?

I am drawn to observe the resources Jesus employed in his great act of forgiveness because I too am called to forgive. So are you. It will be a death to self for us too, in a manner of speaking, if we are to accomplish it. How did Jesus do it?

He prayed. He brought before the Father His sense of the daunting weight of the prospect of forgiving. He likened it to a bitter drink he must swallow. He invoked the immeasurable power of the Father; the vigor of the Divine Trinity would need to be harnessed in order to forgive the magnitude of offense the human race had inflicted. Describing a gap between His own wish and that of His Father, He verbalized submission to the Father’s will, and not only once. Three times he brought this hindrance and solution before the Father. The result? He was strengthened and enabled to accomplish the impossible task of forgiving and bearing the moral debt of all of humanity.

Will we ever be called upon to forgive to that extent? No. We can rest assured that colossal task was Christ’s alone. But some days it might feel like our opportunities to forgive are mammoth too. Then we, more than ever before, must mimic our model of true humanity, and pray. We too must bring before the Father our sense of the daunting weight of the prospect of forgiving. We too must invoke the immeasurable power of the Almighty One; only the vigor of the Divine Trinity is enough to enable us to truly forgive. What does He say the result will be?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Let’s do like Jesus. Forgive and find rest.

 

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