Father, Forgive Them
By Keith McMillan of Independence, MO, USA
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. —Luke 23:34 NRSV
A few years ago I served as a youth pastor for a congregation in Independence, Missouri, USA. I loved being a youth minister though some days were difficult. One girl in my group brought her boyfriend, Matt, to church (probably the best outreach ever thought of!).
Matt came from a broken home, but he was one of the nicest young men I’ve known. I picked him up on Sundays at the corner of a busy highway. He told me he was too embarrassed to have me come to his house. His mother was a chronic drug abuser and, by most accounts, a terrible mother.
One day I got a call to go to the hospital and provide the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick. Matt’s appendix had burst, and he needed immediate surgery. I hurried to be with him and his girlfriend during surgery and recovery. I also thought I finally would meet his mother so I could share with her how incredible her son was. Unfortunately, she was too high on drugs to come.
As I write this, I remember the anger I experienced that day. Matt eventually recovered as other church members and I took him to his doctor’s appointments. His mother’s drug use prevented her from attending.
One Sunday after church, Matt asked me if I could take him home so I could meet his mother. I jumped at the chance and thought all the way there how I could share with her what a terrible person she was. We walked through a cloud of marijuana smoke on the porch into the house. His mother was in the kitchen, frying chicken and slicing fresh oranges.
Before I could speak, she said without looking up, “Thank you for taking such good care of my son, Matt. I wish I could come to church with you, but I am just a terrible person.” I don’t remember my fumbling response but will always remember God saying to me, “Forgive her; she also is my child.” My heart melted.
I lost touch with Matt and his mother over the years but will always remember God humbling me by God’s love for all people.
Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, even in our ministry, we sometimes doubt our effectiveness. When we hear heartfelt, heart-melting words of appreciation, we remember why we serve. When we don’t hear these words, we also need to remember we are serving a beloved and forgiven child of God.
Read Psalm 139:13–18. After reading, sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”?
Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How does God invite you to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.
Today, God, I will serve with or without hearing words of gratitude.