During his lifetime Jesus had repeatedly taught his disciples not to respond to violence with more violence but rather to forgive. In his final moments on earth he forgives the very man who had condemned him and those who drove the stakes through his body. Luke 23:34
When one of the crucified criminals joins in the course of derision that accompanies Jesus to his death, the other confesses his sins and ask for mercy. Luke 23:39-43 It is appropriate in light of this gospel scene and in light of our daily struggles for forgiveness and reconciliation to share this excerpt from the best-selling book, Dead Man Walking.
The author wrote, Lloyd LeBlanc, the author of the book said he would have been content with imprisonment for Patrick Sonnier (who murdered Leblanc’s son David). He went to the execution, he says, not for revenge but hoping for an apology. Patrick Sonnier had not disappointed him. Before sitting in the electric chair he said, “Mr. LeBlanc, I want to ask your forgiveness for what me and Eddie done.” Lloyd LeBlanc nodded his head signaling the forgiveness he had already given.
LeBlanc says that when he arrived with sheriff’s deputies in the cane field to identify his son, he knelt by the boy’s body… lying down there with his two little eyes sticking out like bullets, he prayed the Our Father. When he came to the words, father forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, he had not halted or equivocated and said, “Whoever did this I forgive them.” Mr. LeBlanc acknowledged that it’s a struggle to overcome the feelings of bitterness and revenge that well up, especially as he remembers his son David’s birthday year-by-year and loses him all over again: David at 20, David at 25, David getting married, David standing at the back door with his little ones clustered around his knees, grown-up David, a man like himself whom he will never know. Forgiveness is never going to be easy. Each day it must be prayed for and struggled for and won.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.