Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
In this act of expressing forgiveness under the most intense provocation of criminal treatment, Jesus lifted himself up so far above the average human being that he reflected rather Divine compassion for all humanity. Instead of worrying about his own bodily pains and approaching imminent death, he became deeply concerned about the continuing sufferings of them that are ever magnified by their acts of ignorance. Picturing the magnitude of their fateful, self-inflicted sufferings that were about to fall upon them in the form of extremely painful effects of their sinful acts involving an incarnation of God, his godly heart bled more profusely than his physical body. Of all the miracles performed by Jesus, none was equal to that mighty miracle of the display of divine love. It was a proof of the fact that spirit was most sublime, and capable of defeating all evil.
When God appears in human form it is His compassionate loving face, rather than that of a powerful ruler of human destiny, that draws more attention and eventually converts more hearts into righteous life. Numerous stories are to be found in recorded accounts of Buddha, Jesus, Ramakrishna and the likes that are simply uplifting and divine. Each of them possessed occult powers that could easily be deployed to counter the attacks they had suffered in those situations. Any ordinary man would be considered perfectly judicious even in adopting counteroffensive means in self-defense, let alone try to avoid the attacks. But those are the humanly behaviors. A son of God has a greater goal to achieve. So, he shows the compassionate face of God for the whole mankind to marvel at. In a violent situation in the life of Sri Chaitanya, when a notorious character hit him seriously with a flying missile and he was bleeding profusely, he embraced the criminal in a mood of divine love. And the man was changed for good, from a criminal to a devotee of God.
Forgiveness is not the same thing as patience or forbearance. So long as a man remains weak by any consideration he cannot truly forgive. The desire for a reactionary act, strong enough to teach the perpetrator a fitting lesson, shall continue to torment the mind of an ordinary man. His forbearance and forgoing the issue would be an act of just ‘burying the hatchet’ for the time being. To forgive completely a man has to rise above his ordinary self.
A spiritual seeker may invoke the divine quality of forgiveness in his life as a way of transformation. It is like the spiritual practice of ‘Imitation of Christ’. Walking on the foot-steps of Buddha, Jesus, Chaitanya or Ramakrishna a man would grow up spiritually in a natural way. And the act of forgiveness provides not only a great healing to the forgiven but also it heals the heart of such a practitioner in a grand way. He finds the peace of mind and joy of heart hitherto unknown by the acts of genuine forgiveness.