He knew of the cup he'd have to drink.
He knew his betrayer well. He called him "friend."
He walked with Judas. He dined with Judas. He went about business as usual in the company of Judas.
How could anyone but Jesus behave in such a way? How did he not harbor bitterness and resentment toward Judas in his heart?
How do we forgive the unforgivable? How do we release the rage or hurt that the betrayal has caused us?
It's simple, really. Simple, but not easy.
We forgive because he calls us to do so.
Luke 17:3-4 says, "So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive them."
Yikes. It's difficult enough for us to forgive that one offense that happened over a year ago, but seven times in one day?! Ain't nobody got time for that.
That's exactly what he wants us to do, though. If we can't reflect the love and mercy and compassion of Christ to others by releasing an offense, how will we ever lead people to him? If our faith looks just as vengeful and harbors resentment as the secular world does, what hope do we have in bringing others to Christ? The mercy and love we extend is what separates us from those of the world, and what will eventually draw others to know and pursue him.
So if he expects us to do it, how do we go about it?
My first line of defense is to pray.
Lord, I don't have the power in me right now to forgive.
Humble me to see where I need to adjust my expectations,
or where I could be at fault.
Fill me with your peace and help me to release the offense.
Fill me with the strength to forgive.
To be honest, sometimes that's all it takes for me. He softens my heart and helps me to see things from a fresh perspective. This is not always the case.
When my hardness of heart prevents me from hearing his voice or recognizing his prompting, I fix my eyes on him. He is bigger than anything we will ever face, "and we know that in all things, God works for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) There is always purpose to be found in the pain. We may not enjoy it, and we may writhe in discomfort or even agony, but trusting in this helps us to keep in perspective the bigger picture. His plans > our plans.
It may not be immediate, and it may certainly not be easy, but leaning into him allows us to put one foot in front of the other in order to face the days, weeks, months, and possibly years ahead.
When you find it difficult to forgive an offense, look to the one who set the precedent. Draw your strength from Jesus and ask him to help you carry your cross.
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you."
- Ephesians 4:31-32