“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. -Luke 23:34
Apparently it was a very rabid crowd in Jerusalem calling for His crucifixion, even more so than the two real criminals who were crucified with Him. They had listened to the ring leaders stir up their shouts, curses, and spit. Nevertheless, this crowd had returned to their homes to fix their meals and carry on with their everyday lives, thinking very little about what they had done the day before. “Father, forgive them.
When I was planning to return to Vietnam after 48 years away, many asked, “Why do you want to go back there? You ought to wash your hands of the place. But, I did want to go back. I had loved the Vietnamese people. The land was gorgeous despite the War and the human carnage, and the people were gracious, warm, and friendly. Yet, I wondered about the North. America had bombed them and considered them committed enemies, ones who allegedly hated America; what would they be like?
They had put the War behind them long ago also. They, too, were very loving to us, showing huge smiles, thumbs up gestures, and stating how wonderful they thought Americans were. The same with Cambodia! As it was with the former Viet Cong we came across. Our Viking Cruise host and guide’s parents had been Viet Cong couriers and had long ago put the War behind them, bearing no animosity for their former enemies.
I am convinced that the Vietnamese people, like most peoples, just want to be left alone to live their lives as they will; to grow rice, to marry and have babies, to live in peace. They do not want communism. They put up with it because they have to. They do not want, nor do they pay completely, an 88% government imposed income tax. Despite a communist government, capitalism flourishes. Communist leaders put dampers on it for show, but government largely looks the other way.
Very unfortunately, but promised by the Lord, Christianity is persecuted, though the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the church of Jesus Christ. Buddhism is rampant in its pagan idolatry and enjoys a vast majority of followers which seems more a “nationalistic group-think than anything rationally considered. This is the dark cloud over a warm and friendly people and also the reason, perhaps, why a Vietnamese person stepped purposefully into the path of our fast-moving train, stopping the train for a 30-minute hiatus. Buddhism has no answers for the heart-sick condition of the people.
Forgiveness was the current reigning attitude of the Cambodians for the horrendous “Killing Fields of the genocidal Pol Pot regime. So much so that a Pol Pot follower and fellow murderer escaped into Vietnam, returned with Vietnamese liberators, and eventually became Prime Minister of Cambodia. They actually forgave an unforgivable act, a cold-blooded genocide of millions of people. They have put the terrifying, horrendous period behind them.
Forgiveness was also the overall attitude of the North Vietnamese to America, as it had been to the French colonialists and racial-patronizers before them. Similarly, the South Vietnamese have forgiven the oppression and re-education camps of the victorious North, who overran them after America turned tail and ran from their commitments to them. They also have forgiven the perpetrators of the drownings and ravages of tens of thousands of boat-people attempting to escape their communist victors.
It is either forgiveness or the fact that time heals all wounds, but I rather think forgiveness plays a part in it. What is forgiveness exactly? Letting bygones be bygones? Or, if the sword of brutality and injustice has been largely laid down and is no more being wielded, to get on with living life and not allow revenge to continue burdening the soul to distraction? There is a time for retribution and complete justice at the Great Judgment. The injustice perpetrated will receive its just reward in the future.
Jesus pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Can you not do the same? Is it time to get on with living while not being burdened with continual thoughts of revenge? “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord. Leave such to Him. Live your life as much as possible in the peace of the Lord.
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’ It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.
(1st verse of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul, 1873)
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