Have you ever been mistreated to the point that it felt like ridicule or even torture, like someone just went after you unrelentingly and viciously for seemingly no good reason? Ever been accused of something you didn’t do or felt like you were the subject of a witch hunt?
Have those people who did that to you in mind? – Forgive and Love them anyway. Sounds sucky and hard right? But it is the right thing to do
I have found that most times people feel completely validated in their mistreatment of others. Lots of things can help us rationalize mistreating someone. Past hurt feelings, offense; strong disagreement with someone’s personal choices or just personal pain and issues unrelated to the person.
I have done it. I have treated poorly someone who offended me or who I felt like mistreated me. I have also misdirected my ill feelings toward an innocent party because of my own deeply rooted issues or biases; And I believe that most of the time when someone is doing the mistreating, they have fully justified it somehow, just like I do, and they are unaware of what they are actually doing, until they are willing to see.
Of course there are the exceptions of purely evil motives that people are aware of with the sole desire to cause pain to someone else, but I do not believe that that is the usual situation.
The crucifixion story is where I see the ultimate perfect response to mistreatment. Jesus was accused of falsely calling himself the son of God and was put to death by crucifixion. Before he made it to the cross he was brutally beaten with a metal spiked whip and had a crown of thorns smashed onto his head and then he was hung by nails being driven through his hands and feet to a cross until he died.
While he was hanging on the cross, it is recorded that he said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Now that sounds a bit like crazy- like crazy love. That was his most amazing example of love and forgiveness before his time on earth ended.
You know what I likely would have done if I was being publicly killed for a crime? I imagine that I might have been so angry that I would have started yelling and cursing at them. I may have even tried to spit on the evil on-lookers jeering at me. It would sound nice to say and I would like to believe that, I, in all situations would be loving and gracious, but if I use my past behavior as a reference point of when I was SERIOUSLY wronged- that is not the case… But I am growing…
The power to ask that God forgive people who are hurting you can only come from one source- God- that’s the spirit of Jesus that we all have access to if only we ask.
Jesus knew that even his murderers did not know exactly the weight of what they were doing. He knew that they had to have been blinded in some way and just not even know the gravity of what they were doing.
What if those who persecute us just don’t know either?
Do we have the strength to love them anyway, to believe that they just aren’t even truly aware of what they are doing, and sincerely ask for God to forgive them?
I want to be even more transparent here: As an adult I grappled with the idea of the crucifixion story. I knew that it happened historically, but I often thought that there were a lot of great martyrs in history who allowed themselves to be tortured and killed for what they believed. I thought, aside from all of the parts about Jesus being God and here to save the world- what made the act of him allowing himself to be killed so very great when others may have done it also if they believed that it would rescue in a way all of the people of the world? I thought in a moment of extreme arrogance “I might even die if I knew it was to save the entire world especially my children.”
Then I had a quiet thought- that responded to this statement: “But would you allow your son, your only son, to be tortured and killed to save the people from the evil in the world?”
And THAT – is when I saw the glory in the crucifixion. Not only did God, the creator of the universe turn a part of himself human to relate to us, to show us what love looks like, to give us a direct connection of communication to himself and access to his power and strength to love the way that he does, among other complicated things wrapped up in the story of human kind/ good and evil on earth, but he identified and related to that part of himself that would come to earth as human- as his “son”; and allowed his son to experience human pain and suffering so that we could all be called his sons if we obey him and believe in the power of his love. The new human law is love.
And so, to go back to my story- my answer to whether I would have sacrificed my son is “H. E. double hockey sticks NO!” Thank God that I wasn’t the one who had to make that sacrifice and that God is boss, because ya’ll folks would be goin’ straight to the devil before I let my sweet innocent son die for your mistakes.
Abraham was willing to obey God to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son and although he did not have to, God honored his willingness to obey to such a degree and those who have the faith enough to obey God are also called sons of Abraham. God commands us to love; first him and then others- and then it wraps back around to say that loving him is obeying him and that his command is that we love one another.
The sacrifice that I answer “yes” to, to the best of my ability is that to put my pride, selfishness and emotions aside and love my brothers, and I cannot love them if I cannot forgive them for wronging me; and my hope is that when I wrong others, they will say for me:
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
If you feel like you are being mistreated, there are many things that may need to happen, but one of them is forgiveness, not just because love is the way and the right thing to do for your brother, but because forgiveness also heals you.
And remember that most times, people really just do not know what they do-