Jesus lived the forgiveness he taught

Posted Aug 8, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Luke 23:34, 47

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

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47 When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.”

Reflection Questions

When you hear Pastor Burton’s story, do you realize how much Jesus can identify with Pastor Burton? Jesus’ friends and his nation betrayed him, a Roman procurator who could see his innocence approved his crucifixion (cf. John 19:4-6), and he felt a deep sense of separation from God (cf. Matthew 27:46). Yet on the cross, Jesus did what might seem impossible—he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

  • Too many Christians just ignore injustices like the one Pastor Burton suffered—as long as they don’t happen to them. Jesus rebuked very pious people in his day for carefully giving a tenth of even tiny herbs like mint “while neglecting justice and love for God” (Luke 11:42). In what ways each day, in regular or volunteer activities, could you bring about greater justice? Are you willing to consistently make justice a priority?

Click here to learn more about Pastor Burton’s new “Miracle of Innocence” ministry.

  • Jerusalem’s religious leaders, fixated on outward “goodness,” cruelly asked Pilate to break the legs of Jesus and two bandits to keep the Passover Sabbath “pure” (cf. John 19:31). Crucifixion victims suffocated--breaking a victim’s legs added intense pain but only slightly hastened death. (Click here if you wonder how crucifixion killed. Warning: it was horrific.) Jesus asked God to forgive those who nailed him to the cross. How does the contrast clarify Jesus’ call for his disciples’ righteousness to be “greater” than the leaders’ focus on externals (cf. Matthew 5:20)?

Prayer

Compassionate God, you suffered so much, yet prayed, “Father, forgive them…” As you forge a new identity in me, may I see myself and others through your eyes, and forgive as you forgave. Amen.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Visiting Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

Pastor Darryl Burton’s story of unjust conviction and incarceration is powerful and disturbing (https://www.darrylburton.org/). His story of forgiveness is equally powerful and disturbing, because it goes against one dominant value in our culture-–violence against evil. Our society believes in violence as the answer to end evil and suffering. Just look at the latest Hollywood blockbusters to see the “myth of redemptive violence,” that is, the myth that only violence can save us from evil. * 

The belief that violence can save us from evil is simply that--a belief in the face of millennia of historical evidence revealing it for the lie it is. Belief in violence is perhaps one of the most persistent religious ideas of our day. Darryl himself was a victim of this belief in violence. 

If Pastor Burton followed this dominant value, he would seek violence against those who unjustly incarcerated him for 24 years. He would seek to destroy those who had destroyed his life. Instead, he chooses another way—the way of Jesus, the way of reconciliation.

In the GPS for today, we are invited to consider ways that each of us, in everyday life, could make justice a priority. Perhaps one way we can follow Jesus’ way of reconciliation is to question the judgment about others who are presumed guilty-–whether in the criminal justice system, in a news story, in our community or across the globe. Before we join the chorus of condemnation on Facebook or Twitter, we can pause to consider we might be wrong and thus do great harm.

Pastor Burton shows us how to walk the Jesus path seeking redemption rather than violence, restoration rather than vengeance. Praise be to God.

* For more on “the myth of redemptive violence,” see Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers. Fortress, 1992.

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