A cashier at McDonald’s intentionally shorts his customers a dollar hoping they wont notice and pockets the money for himself throughout the day.
Both cashiers shorted you a dollar. Who would you be more likely to forgive?
A man is running toward you with scissors, trips, and accidentally stabs you.
A man pulls out a switch blade, stabs you, and takes your wallet as you lay bleeding.
Both men stabbed you. Who would you be more likely to forgive?
A woman is distracted by her four year old in the back seat, and as she turns to tell her child to sit still, she does not see your brake lights in front of her, and she rear-ends you at 45 miles/hour.
A young man has been at the bar with three friends, and of the four he is the most sober…but not sober enough. He swerves into your lane and there is a head-on collision, also at 45 miles/hour.
Both people hit your car at 45 miles/hour. Who would you be more likely to forgive?
In these scenarios, I think it is fairly obvious that most of us would be more willing to forgive the first person and less likely to forgive the second. We are by nature inclined to feel sympathy for accidental wrongs against us, and are equally inclined to feel anger and resentment towards those who intentionally wrong us. Whether the offense was accidental or intentional seems to be the basis for forgiveness.
And then there is the forgiveness that Jesus offers. Ask Jesus which person in each of the scenarios above he would be most likely to forgive, and I believe he would respond “Both. My grace is available to all and my forgiveness offered for every offence, accidental and intentional.”
We see this incredible forgiveness displayed throughout holy week. Disciples intentionally betrayed and denied Christ. The crowds intentionally choose Jesus over Barabbas to be crucified. Roman Soldiers intentionally whipped and mocked Christ, and ultimately crucified Christ, intentionally drove the nails into his hands and feet, intentionally thrust a spear through his side, and intentionally broke his legs so that he could not support himself to breathe. And yet after all this intentional abuse, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
THEM? It hardly seems fair. They knew what they were doing. They may not have known who they were doing it to, or the ramifications of their actions, but they did intentionally kill Jesus. Why would he want to forgive them? Because that’s what the gospel is! “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8)
When we confess our sins, we confess that which we have done and that which we have left undone. We confess those sins that we have accidentally committed and those which we intentionally carried out. We confess our accidental and intentional thoughts, words, and deeds. We confess it all in the hope and promise that we will be forgiven. We know that God forgives us because his Son, Jesus, intentionally died on the cross in our place. That is what the cross means to us even today. All our sin, intentional or accidental, is forgiven.