“Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”
One of the most difficult things Jesus instructs us to do is to pray for our enemies. Many of us do not have enemies who are trying to kill us or intend real harm to our lives, but in those days, people did, Jesus certainly did. Yet in the midst of those circumstances he instructs the disciples, who are also under threat of death, to pray for those wanting to hurt and kill them.
In Luke 6:27-28 “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.”
Here we get to those famous verses of turning the other cheek. That is not an easy task; What about standing up for yourself, what about defending yourself? Jesus did not live that way and in following him and learning to live as he lives we are following his example. The difficult task of turning the other cheek is met with Jesus’ simplicity “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Jesus encourages us to pray into these difficult situations because it reflects God’s mercy, as God showed mercy to us so we must show mercy to others. Not just refraining from reacting to those that are against us, but going even further and praying for that person, turning the other cheek, loving the unlovable.
There are days when we may say that it is too hard. We cry “You don’t understand what that person did to me or how they treated me.” The one thing we can be most assured of is that actually Jesus does understand. Not just throughout his life but even to his death. Even as he was dying by the hands of those who betrayed him, hurt him and ultimately killed him he prays.
In pain, at the end and with his last breaths he still shows mercy in praying “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. (Luke 23:34). He still thinks of others and shows love to the thief beside him “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) and right to end he is obedient to God “Father into your hand I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46) and he breathed his last.
When we think it is unfair, when we think we cannot love, cannot forgive we remember that to his dying breath Jesus forgave, he loved and he was obedient.