Faith: Christ’s eternal prayer for the world
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke23:34)
Each year, as Christians commemorate the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, we hear these familiar words of Jesus from the Cross, usually read as a part of Holy and Great Friday (Good Friday) services.
I’m not sure, however, how much we comprehend the significance of Christ’s prayer to the Father.
“Father, forgive them.” Even as he is being executed, even as he is suffering, Christ prays to His Father to forgive those at whose hands He is killed. He does not call for God to rain down fire upon them and destroy them for their evil deeds. Rather, He asks God to forgive them. Christ recognizes that their actions are borne out of their ignorance — their spiritual blindness that has made them unable to see God’s perfect revelation of Himself in the face of Jesus Christ.
On a deeper level, Christ’s prayer from the Cross is not just directed toward his immediate executioners, but can also be understood to be His eternal prayer for the world in every age.
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” It may seem to us that our world is descending each day into deeper darkness and chaos. There is so much confusion, so much violence, so much disorder and division. Beliefs and values that once were commonly shared are now challenged or denied. The very notion of Truth itself, whether religious or scientific, is under attack, as our culture increasingly claims that each person is able to create their own “truth.”
We can easily react to the chaos and confusion around us with anger and confrontation, reflexively taking sides in the culture wars that seem to rage on every front. We can easily find ourselves demonizing the “other” because of their challenge to our own deeply held commitments and values, and viewing them as the enemy.
But such is not the Way of the Cross. Our Lord Himself did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. Knowing our weakness, our blindness, Jesus prays to the Father to forgive, “for they don’t know what they’re doing.” God looks beyond the symptoms of our brokenness to its deeper cause. God understands that our confusion comes from a deeper place of not being in relationship with Him. We “don’t know what we’re doing,” because we don’t know God.
In Jesus Christ, God entered our broken world to reveal Himself fully to us. He came into the world that we might know God’s infinite love for each one of us, and that we might by His grace be transformed to become sons and daughters of God created in His image. Until we accept His love and grace, freely given to us, until we accept His forgiveness, we continue to stumble around in darkness and confusion. We remain blind to God, and blind to one another.
Christ came to offer Himself for the life of the world, and to proclaim the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness. We, who know the love of God, must forgive and love one another. Like our Lord, we must look beyond the chaos and confusion around us, and see the “other” as God sees them — as lost children whom the Father beckons to come home to Him.
In a word, we must love one another as Christ has loved us. Perhaps a good place to start is to pray the prayer our Lord prayed from the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Father David Henderson of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Christian Church in Craig.
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