cross

Holy Week Thoughts to Ponder:  Something Transformative

“Two others also, who were criminals, were lead away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called the Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.”     (Luke 23:32-34) These words, Father forgive them” are undoubtedly the most remarkable and miraculous words of astounding love I have ever known. They are words of grace spoken in the face of injury and offense; words of reconciliation in the face of estrangement.

These words, Father forgive them” are undoubtedly the most remarkable words of astounding love I have ever known. They are words of grace spoken in the face of injury and offense; words of reconciliation in the face of estrangement.

I love the scene in the movie Invictus, the movie about President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.   Early in the movie, Mandela’s head of security, Jason Tshabalala, storms into his office to protest the fact that when he asked for more men to beef up Mandela’s presidential bodyguard, Mandela assigned  four white men who were a part of President de Klerk’s bodyguard, the former president of apartheid-era South Africa.  Tshabalala strongly objected and pointed out that not long before those very same men were instrumental in enforcing apartheid and imprisoning people like himself.

Mandela urged his security chief with the words, “Jason, the rainbow nation starts here.  Reconciliation starts here.  Forgiveness starts here.  Forgiveness liberates the soul.  It removes fear.”     He then implored his security chief to “try.”   Against his will and best judgment, the security chief did “try,” and one of the story lines of the movie, and real life, was how, over time, the racially mixed security force began to blend, work as a team and even gain respect for and trust in one another.

Luke’s community experienced an amazing grace in Jesus that could even forgive the oppressors who dominated their lives and crucified Jesus.  On the one hand, Jesus’ death on the cross was an indictment of Rome and its system of oppression.  But on the other hand, his astounding forgiveness was a recognition of the oppressor’s humanity.  It was this very kind of love that has motivated and transformed people down through the ages;  people, resembling Jesus, who protested oppression, but never lost sight of the humanity of their oppressors.

Ultimately these are words of incredible hope because the world so desperately needs this kind of love.     When will endless cycles of war ever come to an end?     When will rhetoric that fosters hatred and violence ever cease?   When will centuries long animosities fade away?     When will swords be beaten into plowshares once and for all?  Only when something genuinely transformative is injected into the cycle of escalating violence.  That’s what Jesus did.  He injected something transformative – forgiving love – the love of the oppressed for the oppressor.   He took a radical first new step in the face of the cycle of violence.

“Father, forgive them.”  Therein lies the first step.     Therein lies the beginning of hope.

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