And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
That Christ could pray this in the midst of such sorrow and abandonment shocks me.
His tormentors have hoisted him up, pierced his body, pinned him to a cross. Through a kangaroo court’s trumped-up charges, beatings, and his betrayal by friends, he utters those words–some of his last–that echo throughout all of human history and wrongdoing. They undoubtedly apply to his executors, but I’m certain Christ looks at all if us caught up in the muck and mire of the human condition and compassionately offers the same lament.
I’ve recently seen the conclusion of a landlord-tenant dispute (well, at least the legal conclusion) over possession of a home. It’s wonderfully epic in its smallness.
Hardly a legal drama in the sense of what screens on TV, it has involved family conflict, fist fights, drug sales, lies, breaking and entering, and most recently, arrests. My client, the landlord, has been wronged significantly along the way, and by her own flesh and blood at that.
Throughout the representation, I’ve been horrified by the behavior of my opponents. Their baseness eats at me, the brazenness of their willingness to hurt my client. It leads me to loath them. I’m tempted to minimize their humanity and view them as beyond redemption.
This condemnation seems a disease caught from working in the law.
As lawyers, we strip away the complexity of human experience to tell black-and-white morality tales. Jesus saw the depth of misunderstanding and confusion that trapped his accusers and those who would condemn him, so caught up in the ecstasy of their self-righteous wrong. But he did not call for them to be cut down. He prayed for them. I must do the same for my adversaries.
My clients have reminded me of this. Despite their hurt and betrayal, despite being put through the ringer with repeated hearings in different courts and nervous waiting for months and months to see if they would have their home restored to them, they have taken Jesus’ tact (always a good course), essentially repeating his words on the cross.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do
They are so lost they can’t find their way home. They can’t see a way out from their soul-blighting sin and suffer for it. They are not excused for the hurt they cause, but Lord have mercy on them, as you do me, for we are so confused we don’t understand the depth of the wrong we do.
Yellow Arrows is a series of posts looking to Christ’s life and ministry for direction in our legal travails, trying to answer the question “What Would Jesus Practice?” Just as pilgrims through the centuries have marked their route to holy destinations with yellow arrows, Christ guides us weary pilgrims in the legal profession hoping to see his Kingdom come.