Dave Brisbin 7.25.21
What’s the most important verse in scripture? That could be endlessly debated and ultimately impossible to answer unless asked this way: what is the most important verse in scripture to you? And once it becomes personal, it most likely becomes a moving target as well. Different verses have been signatures for me, changing over time, and recently, Luke 23:34 has been persistently growing in importance: Forgive them, Father, they don’t know what they are doing.

Not particularly warm, and mildly condescending at first glance, but this tiny prayer from Jesus on the cross as he’s being tortured and executed, is huge in implication. It points to a willingness to remain fully vulnerable—undefended, open, compassionate—that under such circumstances is almost beyond belief. And it points to the real meaning of the cross itself: not appeasing an angry God with a blood sacrifice, but displaying perfect love in human form…because love is vulnerability, undefended openness in action, or it’s not love at all.

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Christians often think of Jesus as God to the exclusion of his humanity, but scripture is clear that Jesus was fully human, and Jesus tells us himself that we humans are meant to do what he has done: display perfect love through our vulnerability. But how to maintain vulnerability in the face of the attacks of another? Jesus tells us in the second part of his prayer: recognizing our shared humanity in the limiting fears, compulsions, and core beliefs on which we unconsciously act. That until we are aware enough, we literally don’t know what we are doing as we do the harm we do. In Aramaic, freedom and forgiveness are the same word. To be released is forgiveness, and to forgive is to set ourselves free of victimhood and fear. But we can’t forgive without becoming vulnerable again. Ultimate freedom is found in the vulnerability of forgiveness, which we’ll never know until we do the work awareness requires and begin to know what it is we are doing.

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Everyone is recovering from something… Admitting this is the first step in spiritual life, because any unfinished business in our lives–trauma, unforgiveness, fear-based perceptions–fosters compulsive behavior and keeps us from connecting spiritually and emotionally.

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