Today, a video was brought to my attention where Seth Dahl speaks about Jesus asking him for forgiveness. As per usual, when I see an outrageous headline on Facebook, I figured that there has to be more to the story than just what the thumbnail seems to be saying. Intrigued, though, I clicked through.
Dahl speaks about how he was hurt by a pastor of a church. He doesn’t go into details, but then he speaks about a vision that he had while lying on the floor of the chapel that they’re currently in.
Jesus picks me up and holds me so close that I can’t see anything. And he holds me so close. And Jesus starts to weep, and he says, “Please forgive me. Please forgive me.”
I said, “What are you talking about? Please forgive you?”
He said, “When that pastor hurt you, it’s as if I hurt you, cause he’s a member of my body. Please forgive me.”
Quick. Everyone suck in a breath.
Before we start erecting a stake, though, and call for torches. I wanted to check something that’s always important, especially on the Internet. Context.
So I signed up to Bethel.TV and found the whole sermon, and listened to it. It’s called An Unexpected Route to Joy, and in it Dahl is speaking about the role that sadness has in giving us joy. He spends about half the sermon retelling the whole story of the movie Inside Out, but the point he’s making, is that we can’t experience joy while we’re holding on to pain.
Then, right at the end, he starts telling the story of how he was really hurt by the words a pastor used against him some time in his life, and how he’d had this vision of Jesus picking him up and asking him for forgiveness.
Now I’m not here to make any judgment over the validity or honesty of Dahl’s vision. What I want to do is discuss forgiveness.
Forgiveness: Stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offence, flaw or mistake. ~ Oxford Dictionary of English
Why do we forgive?
Question: Why does Jesus tell us to forgive those around us?
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. ~ Matthew 6:14-15
I want to make something clear, because it seems to get confused in a lot of our minds – including, for a long time, my own. When you forgive someone, it’s got nothing to do with them. Forgiveness isn’t a transaction. It’s not something that you give to someone because they apologise. Forgiveness is a gift.
Forgiveness is about you
Forgiveness is also about the state of your heart, not the person who hurt you.
That dictionary definition speaks a lot. Forgiveness is where we stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone because they hurt us. Forgiveness isn’t saying that what someone did was right; it’s not even about absolving them from the consequences of their actions. Forgiveness is about releasing the negativity in your own heart, so that you can go on living without letting that hurt, pain and sadness control and define you.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8
Do you realize that Jesus had already forgiven you, even before you asked him to? Jesus wasn’t waiting for you to say the sinner’s prayer before he would forgive you; he was waiting for you to go through that process of accepting his forgiveness. Whatever that moment was for you, when Jesus came into your life, it wasn’t about you earning or deserving God’s forgiveness. That was already set in place. That moment was about your heart being opened.
Forgiveness opens the door to joy
Jesus doesn’t ask us to forgive others for their benefit, he asks us to forgive others so that our heart can be pure, so that we can live a joy-filled life that isn’t held back by hurt and unforgiveness.
But Forgiving Jesus?
I too, like Seth Dahl, have had experiences where a church pastor has said some really hurtful things to me, and I can testify to the idea of holding that resentment not only against the person, but, because of their position in the Church, holding it against God as well.
It’s easy, from our human point of view, to hold resentment against God, especially when it comes down to hurts committed by leaders of the church. I know more than my share of people who have turned their backs on God because of the actions of people, and it breaks my heart.
So when I hear Seth Dahl saying that Jesus said, “Please forgive me,” I don’t hear Jesus asking for forgiveness because Jesus committed a hurtful act and needs forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t need forgiveness. Jesus didn’t commit that hurtful act or say those harmful words. He has not sinned, obviously.
What I see Jesus saying, when he says, “Please forgive me,” is, “Please stop feeling angry and resentful toward me for the perceived offence in your heart.” I see Jesus cradling this young man in his arms, telling him to forgive, because that hurt is something that he needs to let go of.
Jesus doesn’t need our forgiveness, but if we have perceived hurts that we’re holding against him, then we need to forgive. We need to release any resentment, any hurt, any anger that we’re feeling, not because Jesus needs it, but because we do.
It’s only in forgiveness that we can truly begin to experience Christ’s joy.