THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO
A prisoner having already served over 20 years of a life sentence wrote the following sentence in a letter to me on Christmas Day where he is in solitary confinement in a Texas prison and has received some unfair treatment:
“Even Jesus on the cross said ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’” Luke 23:44
This can be liberating if we think about it.
Why do we make a big issue of being offended, persecuted, etc. when they don’t know what they do? That is not even sensible of us. Instead we could just stand back and rejoice as Matthew 5:12 says to do.
Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 Rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
In I Corinthian 2:8 it also says that if the princes of this world had known what they were doing they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Of course we could go on to say that most of them should have known they were at least murdering someone. But this is not added to the statement. They just did not know the horrific magnitude of their spiritually blinded actions.
Personally we are to rejoice when we are persecuted and persecution can be expressed through words, attitudes, actions towards us or physically torturing or killing us. We are to rejoice …..
1. Because we are commanded to in Matthew 5:12.
2. Because we can … we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Philippians 4:13
3. Because it makes us happier and free from unforgiveness which is a painful burden to carry around in our hearts.
4. Because it is a witness both to the persecutor and the others of the overcoming power of the Spirit of God… it glorifies the Lord. Psalm 50:23
5. Because ours is the Kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
6. Because we know that great is our reward in heaven. Matthew 5:12
7. Because we can compare it to a handicap others have that we can see such as physical blindness, deafness, paralysis of limbs, etc. although it isn’t visible to us.
We make allowances for the behavior of these individuals who might cause us difficulty or annoyance because we understand they are limited in ability. We know animals have limitations of understanding and we make allowances. So for those who are spiritually blind and misled we can just make allowances and lower our expectations of how we will be treated by others.
There is one sad side of it though. If we have the compassion of Jesus Christ we also have the caring of Jesus Christ for our persecutors and we are aware that judgment will come to those who don’t know what they do. Hosea 4:6,
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” He adds to them that because they have rejected Him He will reject them. Their lack of knowledge could be considered willful rather than ignorant.
And yes our persecutors are often family members or other Christians. The fate of the unbelievers who persecute Christians is even worse than for Christians as eternity without repenting and being reconciled to God is a fearful thing. As it says in Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God and in Hebrews 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.
So Jesus was rejected, tortured and crucified. He not only forgave and even asked His Father God to forgive them but He wept over the city saying they did not know the time of their visitation and He outlined in detail the coming destruction of Jerusalem which took place around 70 AD. The Greek word for wept here is the stronger one of KLAIO which means sobbing or wailing loudly. The Greek word DAKRUO is milder meaning to cry silently or to weep. He would not interfere with their coming judgment. It was inevitable that since they had not repented they had sealed their doom However He was very heartbroken at their rejection of Him and their coming fate. And we should have that same heart since He is living and moving through us. Acts 17:28 In Him we live and move and have our being.
Hopefully we can now rejoice much more easily through this clarification by the Spirit working through the Word of God on this issue. We can make the necessary allowances for others and stay lifted up to a higher plane of feeling and behavior … up where we belong seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6