I was running around town on my usual, busy Friday and here in the bible belt, the city that has the most churches per square mile than any other place in the entire U. S. of A, I read a sign. Yes. You read right. I read a sign. In fact, I read many signs. In front of churches. They are all over town. Little quips, sometimes bible verses, but mostly quick witted, far sighted, closed minded groups of words on boards with removable letters. The letters have to be removable to change what is said from week to week, month to month, year to year, decade after decade. And I do believe I see more churches open now than I ever have before in this big town. Churches in shopping centers. Churches in movie theaters. Churches on the beach. Churches in huge complexes of many buildings and landscapes. Tiny churches on little corners or way out in the country with open blue skies floating majestically above them. Well, out front of one of these churches was a sign, there's usually a sign. The sign read, "Father, forgive them."
And instantly I thought...subliminally thought, a quick, popped-up sentence in my head...yes, Father, forgive them for they know not what to do with the circumstances they have been handed in life. I let that thought set for about three seconds in my mind and then I suddenly became angry. Father, forgive them, people who many or most have suffered in life, or have been programmed for cruelty, some seemingly beyond any repair, who have been handed not what they asked for, and have had a trickle down effect of such circumstances that continue to flood down the stair of every generation of their familial life? All due to Adam and Eve sinning in the garden? All due to their wicked nature they were born with at birth? I have had to recently grapple with these thoughts I have never even dared to think before.
Babies are born totally wicked, depraved and sinful or so I have been told. Children have messy, evil, mistake filled lives, supposedly, unless we constantly intervene. And all adults are bound for hell without seeing how lost they are without Jesus. But is this the whole story? Is this fully true? Are many in evangelical churches at large leaving wide open gaps of understanding left misunderstood? Is it okay to ask questions without fear of retribution and abandonment in these churches? I have been in church for the better or worse part of my life. Questions that test the traditional belief systems were ignored or swept aside. These questions leave you lonely with feeble, hallow answers that never settle the soul. And I know that many questions we have about life, God, the bible and how it all works may never be answered and what it boils down to, is what do I choose to believe. It's my choice. And, yes, despite the questions I have posing a threat to many, many people in the great, wide world of the churched, I do want to make the right choice in the way I believe.
Many things are unclear and I am human. The journey I am on is hinged in many ways on these two elements. Father, forgive me. I am human. I was born into a family. I was born to a person who had an absolute design thrust upon my soul, etched in self-righteousness and piety, but no real personal kindness or love for people or life or family. Father, forgive me. Father, forgive me for being in churches my whole life that caused me to stare down my nose at the rest of the free world who did not fall in line with my particular belief system. Father, forgive me, for spending years of my life isolating, criticizing and abandoning people. And on and on. On and on I could go.
And that board. That board I read. It's missing a few words. Very crucial words...and how could you leave them out? Tell us the whole story, not just part of it. Jesus, the son of God, was crucified, and hanged on the cross in agony. I believe He really did live and die for me. I choose that belief for myself. He spoke to His Father in heaven while being mocked continuously, spit upon...He could barely speak. His mouth was dry, his body was almost done from the pain and it took every ounce of his effort to say these words and He didn't have to exert Himself to say them, but He did. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Jesus could have said a lot of things. He alone spoke a very few words while hanging on the cross. No, He looked at grown men and women who were yelling, screaming, spitting, mocking, cursing, belittling, throwing what they could, words of pain, cruel shots of words into the atmosphere. Adults. They were old enough to know better. But they didn't do better. They were taught that Jesus was an absolute imposter, a threat to their God of the Old Testament and not the true Messiah. Jesus knew that. He understood that.
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." They just don't know.