“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:34a)
If Jesus can say this of the very people who were tacitly, if not directly, responsible for ending His life, I can say it as well. I can say it when I suspect that the person who has offended me, however slightly, knows exactly what they did. I can say it when my friend is off-puttingly brusque. I can say it even when I discern that the individual with whom I am interacting is not in control. If Jesus can say it with one of His last breaths, then I can say it with any- and everyone.
“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” (John 1:10)
What I see in the top example is Jesus taking on the sin of humanity. What a glorious proclamation! They know not what they do. If the very worst thing a human being is able to perform, namely that of killing its creator, can be done without knowledge, then there’s hope. This isn’t to say that there isn’t judgment and consequences, no. But we are truly ignorant.
“But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” (1 Corinthians 14:38)
It’s almost as if, referring again to the comment above about Jesus taking on the sin of humanity, He’s implying that it stops with His death. And that something so heinous, so chaotic as to be against the very limits of existence, so cosmically outré as to be beyond the bounds of logic itself, is forgivable. The Creator forgives His creation for ending His life. And humanity was none the wiser. Not only did those who crucified Christ not know what they were doing (mote and beam combined) in a negative sense. They had no idea that the very act of sentencing Jesus to death was fulfilling God’s plan of salvation. Lastly, they had no notion of what the Lord was working out for them: namely the way back to the Father.
With the complexity of human interaction and motivation, the reality that we oftentimes don’t know how we hurt other people is a given. My not promptly returning a call, text or email because I’m busy or forgetful (or simply unmotivated) can be the source of pain and exasperation on the other end of the attempted communication. I had no idea that my friend needed to hear from me so promptly. And I wasn’t doing it to hurt them, either.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:10-11, emphasis mine)
How do we know? How do we know that we know? What we know? Are we willing to revisit and reexamine, not just our day-to-day, quotidian, activities, mores and beliefs, but the fact that God is even real? The writer of Romans says “For from the creation of the world the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made.” It says that the things we see in this world testify to the things that cannot be seen with the eye. It continues: “even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (1:20) In other words, God’s face is everywhere you look, everywhere I look. And His love is shining through His eyes. If what Jesus says is true and it holds up before the face of Him who made you and me, that means all is forgiven.
All, that is, except the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. See Luke 12:10. Perhaps that’s the only sin committed with full knowledge and awareness?