Forgive us, for we know not what we do

Forgive us, Father, for we know not what we do.

Each Palm Sunday, I am even more sensitive to the fact that for the next week, millions will unknowingly demonize God and believe that they will be mightily blessed for doing so. I’m sure you’re wondering: How in the world can someone demonize God and not know it?

As simply as I can explain it, we can be fully aware that we’re doing something (walking, driving or standing somewhere) without giving it a conscious thought. We frequently do things without thinking about why we’re doing them—or the meaning and implications of our actions.

For example: All of us have found ourselves in a room and wondered, “Why did I come in here?” Or while in the process of doing something, we suddenly ask, “Why am I doing this?”

On rare occasions, we ask, “What does it mean that I am doing this?”

Death by torture: Divine or demonic?

This week we will frequently hear the phrase, “Christ died so that we might live,” as if he lay down on a slab, closed his eyes and stopped breathing. No one ever says, “God gave Jesus to the Romans to be sadistically tortured to death for sins he didn’t commit.” If they did, would it change our perception of God?

God-so-loved the worldWe unconsciously declare, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Have you thought about the meaning of this Bible verse and others that proclaim that Jesus “died for our sins”? Would you like to? Let’s do a Drama Queen Workshops-style thinking exercise:


Front door of a beautiful suburban home. A business executive and single father, who has returned home a day early from a business trip, hears loud music and raucous chatter coming from his basement as he opens the door. He walks past beautifully appointed living and dining rooms, then into the huge kitchen, and down to the basement.

As he gets to the foot of the basement stairs and his eyes adjust to the darkness, he surveys the room. It looks like a scene from Sodom and Gomorrah:

Teenagers are drinking alcohol and dancing wildly. A few have passed out on the floor and on the sofas. Four guys are gambling at a table in the corner.

Near the laundry room, two boys are raping a drunk girl in the shadows. One kid, who was severely beaten after vomiting on a classmate, is lying in a pool of his own blood, lifeless.

The father is outraged! “What the hell is going on here? Mandy! Mandy, where are you?”

Screaming kids start scrambling, trying to escape up the stairs. He blocks their exit.

His daughter stumbles over friends to turn off the music and runs to him, stammering, trying to explain. Dad doesn’t want to hear it.

Mandy begs for his forgiveness; but forgiveness is out of the question. She falls to her knees, head bowed, in tears.

Dad is so angry, he can barely look at her. He asks, “Where’s your brother?”

“He left for that spiritual retreat today, remember?” Mandy murmurs, sobbing.

Dad raises an eyebrow. “It looks as if you are the one who should have gone!”

“I’m sorry, Dad. I don’t know what I was thinking. Please forgive me. Please forgive all of us,” she says, making a sweeping gesture across the room.

Her friends are now too afraid to move.

Dad thinks for a moment. Looking into the faces of the frightened teens, his tone softens.

“Because I love you so much, I will forgive you—but only on one condition: When John returns, I’m going to have him arrested and slowly tortured to death. His murder will wash away all your crimes. Everyone who believes that I have done this as an act of love will be forgiven of their misdeeds. In fact, they will live forever. So go tell everyone you know.”

That’s our drama. Now, ask yourself:

How would you respond to the father’s forgiveness offer if you were one of those teens in the basement: Would you accept it? Would you be grateful?

Is it an act of love or sadism to have an innocent child sadistically tortured to death so that the guilty children can escape punishment for their own misdeeds?

Why do we believe it is an act of love if God does it?

If a parent loves his guilty children so much that he would protect them by having his innocent child tortured to death, how does he feel about his innocent child?

If we insist to others that God had His innocent child tortured to death, are we proclaiming that God is good or evil?

If we believe that torturing an innocent person to death—for any reason—is a good thing, what does it say about us?

Needless to say, I’ve given this matter considerable thought, and I have concluded that declaring that God does something that Love would not do actually demonizes God. So during Holy Week or any week, I will repeat only one verse from the Bible’s crucifixion narrative: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

7 thoughts on “Forgive us, for we know not what we do

  1. Maybe I’m not deep enough -:-) This is what I gleamed from my Bible reading. God is a perfectly just God and he is perfectly merciful. He proclaimed that the wages of sin was death, then Adam & Eve sinned. God hates sin, but he loves man, so therefore, he appointed men to slay an animal — a lamb — as a sacrifice for their sins. There was a problem. Every year the priests would go to the temple and offer a lamb for the repentance of sins. Then people would go out & sin again. So God – who is one God in three persons — the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit – sent the son as the ultimate lamb. In the Bible, when Jesus tells Peter and the apostles of the fate he is going to face, and Peter protests, what does Jesus say? “Get thee behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block. You do not have in mind the things that concern God, but merely human concerns.” Isaiah predicted the crucifixion and death over 400 years before Jesus was born. If this wasn’t God’s plan, then why are we bothering to read the Bible? Just asking 🙂

  2. There are a number of excellent reasons for reading the Bible. For example, I read it to understand ancient peoples’ beliefs about what God is and what God does. I find it utterly fascinating.

    Based on your question, it sounds as if you believe that everything in the Bible is true, including the parts that order slaves to be obedient to their masters, no matter how cruel they are; parts that denigrate women and Blacks; parts that order us to solve problems by murdering each other, including our children if they become disrespectful; and parts that declare that this planet is flat.

    As you know, there is no original text. Bible scholars tell us that this collection of books was written by hand by many individuals over a period of several centuries. Duplicating their work led to their words often being misinterpreted, poorly translated and errantly transcribed.

    Some of the history, geography, genealogy and other facts have been found to be inaccurate. There are differing versions written to meet the demands of kings. Studies have even found that New Testament claims were tailored to fit Old Testament prophesy, sometimes clumsily. Even if divinely inspired, the Bible is a human product that is prone to human error.

    Consequently, I am among those who believe that while there is a lot of truth in the Bible, everything in the Bible isn’t true. If I’m not sure what is true and what is not, I either consult books on Bible history written by scholarly theologians or I simply ask: “Would Love do that?”

    I personally do not think that Love solves problems by inhumanely drowning or torturing Its children to death. But I sincerely respect those who do.

  3. Claudia Ross

    Your article I thought provoking, that’s for sure. 🙂 But God didn’t force Jesus. He desired to do so: 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10 documents Christ testimony about willingness to sacrifice all. John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

    • Thank you, Claudia. If I understand your citations correctly, they and you are saying that Jesus wasn’t forced; but he received an order/charge from God to be tortured to death. I admit to being a bit confused, and I hope you don’t mind setting me straight:

      What purpose was served by Jesus subjecting himself to sadistic torture? Was this sadistic suicide required before God would forgive the guilty parties? What did he intend to accomplish by aborting his good news ministry after only three years? If part of Jesus’s good news message was that God is the unconditionally forgiving father of prodigals, was that message refuted by God establishing Jesus’s brutal murder as a condition of forgiveness?

      I’m a city girl, so I’m really confused by the scripture claiming that a good shepherd dies for his sheep. Since you cited it, I’m sure that you can explain it. Is it typical for good shepherds to die for their sheep? At what point in their journey does the shepherd make that decision? And when he does, who leads the sheep, hopefully not another good shepherd who will lay down his life. Surely, I’m missing something. Help!

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