In 1939 General Francisco Franco, an ambitious Spanish military officer, became the absolute ruler of Spain. Franco took the title El Caudillo—the Leader—and he was ruthlessly so until his death more than 30 years later. He was responsible for the death or imprisonment of more than 50,000 of his opponents.
As Franco lay dying, a priest was called to his bedside. The priest, having lived under Franco’s regime, asked him what could have been a dangerous question: “My son, have you forgiven all of your enemies?” El Caudillo replied, “Father, I have no enemies.” The priest asked, “Then you have made peace with them?” Franco reportedly answered, “No. I have no enemies because I killed them all.”
That deathbed conversation defines the only two ways that we can be rid of our enemies. We can destroy them, the way of the world; or we can forgive them, the way of Christ. The latter way isn’t easy, yet it is necessary. It is the Christ-prescribed path for personal and corporate healing.
Healing, yes, but forgiveness is not a magic wand that puts everything marvelously back into place. No doubt, it can have incredible reconciling powers, but forgiveness doesn’t save every marriage, restore every family, or repair every broken relationship. It won’t necessarily make you feel good about your son-in-law, your ex-wife, or your step-son. And it is a guarantee that when you try to forgive or reconcile with some people, it will bounce off of them like a rock skipping across flat water.
Consider Christ himself. With the central act of God’s loving grace, Jesus died on a cross and was resurrected from the dead, bringing life and forgiveness to all. He did what he did, deliberately, becoming a suffering symbol of all that had gone wrong with the world, the personification of the shameful way humanity spurns God’s embrace, harms each other, and injures creation. But even the risen Jesus has scars, scars for those who will never in their lifetimes respond to this love.
Yet, his scars are undying signs that the damage that humans inflict on one another can mercifully end. His scars can resolve all disputes and end all animosities, not by means of unending revenge, but with eternal forgiveness. May we who bear the name of Christ, also bear on our bodies the scars that show we belong to Jesus—the scars of forgiveness.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.