The hardest person to forgive

When I was growing up, my parents really enjoyed listening to Paul Harvey on the radio.  I am certain that I did not fully appreciate his humor and insight then, but I am glad that a few of his commentaries still can be heard (at least on You-tube, although they played one of his “poems” during my favorite Super Bowl commercial this year!)  Mr. Harvey usually ended his short stories with “and that is the rest of the story.”    I decided that I wanted his ending to be my beginning to my thoughts today on one aspect of the Easter story …

The Criminal on the Cross (the rest of the story)In the newsletter article from yesterday (3-28-13 edition), I talked about how two of Jesus’ last seven statements involved forgiveness.  In fact the last act that Jesus did when He was on the cross was telling one of the criminals next to Him that Jesus would see Him in paradise.  Many people might have considered that Jesus’ last miracle (before the Resurrection, of course).

We do not know a lot about the two men that Jesus hung between.  While we are told the crimes of Barabbas (the one who set free instead of Jesus), we do not know anything about the types of crimes that these two crucified men committed.  I would imagine that they were rather significant for a consequence like crucifixion, but of course, I can only speculate.  The one man seemed to be a bit loud about his predicament and a bit mad at Jesus even.  I am wondering if I would have had to cover my children’s ears from his rantings if we would have happened to have been even a few streets away.

The other criminal seemed to recognize that he deserved death.  He could see the contrast between the man Jesus and himself.  He may have even been repentant about his crimes – he definitely seemed to be willing to humble himself enough to ask Jesus to remember him when Jesus got into His kingdom.  I wonder if that was hard for him to acknowledge that need.  Or if his desperation in that last hour overrode everything else.  He knew and professed his guilt, but he was able to get beyond that to ask for something that should have never been granted.  That most of us would struggle asking for when we knew that it was undeserved.  Forgiveness.  And his eternity was forever changed.

For the majority of moms in our group, recognizing our initial need for a Savior might have been a simple step.  Yet, I think we can often get stuck there and forget to realize that Jesus did not save once.  He saved us for always.  Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, His forgiveness is now unlimited.  No matter what we did.  Before or after.

I think that sometimes forgiving others for their errors is easier than forgiving the person that can frown at me in the mirror.  I can be such a perfectionist, and I tend to forget that I am a sinner who is in daily need of grace.  Jesus knew that I would be that way, and He was willing to die for me anyway.  Not because I was deserving but out of love.  I do need to confess my failings and ask God to forgive me.  But then I need to remember to extend that forgiveness to myself.  God promised that my sins would be removed me as far as the east is from the west.  I get that and am thankful.  Yet often I become directionally challenged when it comes to extending that forgiveness to myself.  I change and think that God must really mean from the north to the south.  That there is an end to His forgiveness.  When I am unwilling to take God’s forgiveness and make that be enough, I am almost making a mockery of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on my behalf.

Since the criminal was just hanging around waiting to die, I would imagine he had a bit of time to think.  To recall the pain that he caused.  To remember crimes that he wished he had never committed.  What if he had gotten hung up on that?  What if he was unable to let go of his regrets?  What if all he saw was his undeservedness?  His end result would have been VASTLY different had He not reached out to a Savior.   Instead, his actions seem to indicate his willingness to forgive himself for living a life of sin as he seemed to recognize that Jesus was willing to save him.  Sin and all.   Not because of piety but because of God’s undeserved favor.

What past sin are you holding on to in your heart?  Have you asked for Christ’s forgiveness?  Then that sin should no longer have a place.  If Christ has forgiven you, then you need to ask him to help you forgive yourself.  He will do this.  Guilt should result in confession, but then that feeling needs to go away.  Yes, we may have consequences for our actions and continue to feel regret, but guilt should not be our supreme emotion anymore.  Grace should.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!