Father, forgive them.
Liberators found the following prayer crumpled among the remains of the Ravensbruck concentration camp where Nazis exterminated nearly 50,000 women: O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember the fruits we brought thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this. And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
I cannot imagine the fear and pain inflicted on the terrorised woman who wrote this prayer. I cannot imagine what kind of inexplicable grace these words required of her. She did the unthinkable: she sought God’s forgiveness for her oppressors.
This prayer echoes Christ’s prayer. After being wrongly accused, mocked, beaten, and humiliated before the people, Jesus was “crucified . . . along with (two) criminals” (Luke 23:33). Hanging, with mutilated body and gasping for breath, from a rough-hewn cross, I would expect the Lord to pronounce judgement on His tormentors, to seek retribution or divine justice. However, Jesus uttered a prayer contradicting every human impulse: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (v 34).
The forgiveness the Lord Jesus offers seems impossible, but He offers it to us. In His divine grace, impossible forgiveness flows free.
Father God, Your forgiveness is a strange, impossible thing. In my pain, it is hard to imagine this possibility. Help me, and teach me to show your love and impossible forgiveness to others. I n Christ's name, I prayer. Amen.