FORGIVENESS:

 

I only remember one thing my English teacher said to me.

We had been told to read a passage from AJ Cronin about the Tay BRIDGE Rail Disaster…and comment on what we thought about it.

When we were all finished reading, she asked for comments…

I think it’s really good because he uses a lot of really big words…says I…

No, you stupid boy, it’s really bad because he uses a lot of big words…the big show off!

Ooops.

I thought I’d got it so right…and I’d got it so wrong…

 

Peter must have thought he’d got it so right…surely the Lord would be impressed if Peter promised to forgive his brother seven times…above and beyond the call of duty …a superbly generous gesture of compassion and big heartedness.

No Peter…not seven times….seventy times seven..

A whole new ball game of forgiveness

A quantum leap of gracious generosity of heart…

Nice try Peter – but no cigar!!

  

THE CALL FROM CHRIST

THAT WE FORGIVE NOT JUST SEVEN TIMES

BUT SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN

MAKES FORGIVENESS NOT JUST AN OCCASIONAL ACT-

BUT A WAY OF LIFE!!

 

THE TRUTH IS

I KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT FORGIVING…

 

I KNOW PLENTY ABOUT BEING FORGIVEN – THE NEED TO BE FORGIVEN…I HAVE NEEDED PEOPLE TO FORGIVE ME ON COUNTLESS OCCASIONS

BUT…

1.  NO CHILD OF MINE HAS BEEN ABDUCTED AND KILLED

2.  NO DISABILITY HAS MADE LIFE A STRUGGLE OF UNBELIEVABLE STRAIN FOR ME

3.  NO MISCARRAIGE OF JUSTICE HAS RUINED MY LIFE

4.  NO BETRAYALS – BY FRIENDS OR COLLEAGUES HAVE LEFT ME BITTER AND WOUNDED

5.  NO DRUNK DRIVER KILLED MY WIFE

6.  NEVER BEEN JILTED AT THE ALTAR

7.  NOT ABUSED AS A CHILD

8.  NO WAR TIME BRUTALITY AGAINST ME…

9.  NO YEARS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE FROM A VIOLENT HUSBAND-

10.   NO-ONE CHEATED ME OUT OF MY BUSINESS OR ROBBED ME OF MY SAVINGS

 

I HAVE BEEN HUGELY BLESSED THAT NONE OF THOSE IRRUPTIONS OF WICKEDNESS AND WOUNDING HAVE AFFECTED MY LIFE AND FORCED ME TO ASK MYSELF THE QUESTION – “WHAT PLACE FORGIVENESS?”

++

WE SAY IT EVERY WEEK – MAYBE EVERY DAY

“FORGIVE US AS WE FORGIVE”

IS IT POSSIBLE?

OR IS IT JUST NAÏVE IDEALLISM?

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE IF WE DO FIND IT IN US TO FORGIVE THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BROUGHT DISASTER TO OUR LIFE?

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE IF WE DON’T?

·        +++

 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE Sigmund FREUD

TO SEE THE EFFECT OF NOT FORGIVING

OR WITHOLDING OUR FORGIVENESS…

 

AND THE EFFECT IS DEVASTATING AND CORROSIVE.

 

1.  WE END UP BEING LOCKED INTO AN IMPRISONING PAST AND THAT MEANS THAT – THE BAD GUYS WIN…IT MEANS THAT WHOEVER HAS PERPETRATED THE EVIL AGAINST US

REMAINS IN CONTROL OF THE SITUATION,

                                                       AND THEY ARE STILL AFFECTING OUR LIVES

IN A DESTRUCTIVE AND CRIPPLING WAY.

WE STAY LOSERS,

AND EVIL THINGS CONTINUE

TO DAMAGE AND DIMINISH

OUR EXPERIENCE OF LIFE.

WE ARE HAMPERED AND HOBBLED

AND UNABLE TO MOVE ON

TO NEW POSSIBILITIES.

 

TRAPPED BY HATRED –

SHACKLED TO BITTERNESS

WE ARE UNABLE TO BREAK LOOSE

AND LIVE AGAIN. 

BECAUSE HATE AND UNFORGIVENESS

CORRODE OUR SPIRIT.

 

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” Martin Luther King.

 

2.  IT MEANS TOO THAT OUR LIVES ARE MARRED AND MARKED BY BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS  THAT LIE AROUND OUR EXPERIENCE AND HAUNT US…OLD EMNITIES THAT FESTER AND POISON OUR FUTURE. WE NURSE OUR WRATH TO KEEP IT WARM – AND IT CHOKES US. FAMILIES REMAIN AT WAR, ANCIENT FEUDS ROT AND STINK AT THE VERY CORE OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS AND WE CANNOT BE AT PEACE – BECAUSE RESENTMENT AND BITTERNESS SOUR EVERYTHING – SPOIL EVERYTHING…PARENTS ARE CUT OFF FROM CHILDREN…

GRANDPARENTS CAN’T SEE THEIR GRANDCHILDREN…

AND IT’S ALL ONE BIG UGLY MESS.

++

3.  AND WHEN WE CANNOT FIND IT IN US TO FORGIVE THEN WE ALLOW THE LOG JAM OF EMOTIONS THAT IS SO COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TO PERSIST –

BECAUSE THERE IS NO WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE, NO ATTEMPT AT FORGIVENESS -THAT OVERGROWN JUNGLE OF RESENTMENTS CANNOT BE PENETRATED – THE TANGLE CAN’T BE LOOSENED

 

4.  AND WE END UP WITH A SOUR AND EMBITTERED HEART…NOT A CREATIVE PLACE TO BE -NOT A serene  STATE TO FIND OURSELVES IN …BURNING ANGER…THE ACID OF LOATHING ETCHING UGLINESS ON OUR SOUL…OUR SMILE HOLLOW – SOMETHING ROTTEN AT THE CORE OF OUR DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS. A HAPPINESS WE CAN NEVER HAVE BECAUSE IT IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE TAINTED WITH HATE…BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT DISCOVERED THE WAY TO FORGIVENESS.

 

5.  AND SO THE UGLY TERRIBLE CYCLE CONTINUES – AND THERE IS NO END – EXCEPT THE TERRIBLE TRAGEDY OF LOST OPPORTUNITIES – AND SOMEONE GOES TO THEIR GRAVE UNFORGIVEN – OR UNFORGIVING – AND THIS LIFE SO FULL OF POSSIBILITY – SO MEANT TO BE GOOD AND HEALING AND SPLENDID IS EMPTY AND MESSY AND HORRIBLE…FULL OF REGRET.

 

+++

 

MIND YOU…

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SIGMUND FREUD EITHER TO REALISE THAT

1.   FORGIVENESS IS GOOD FOR YOU!!

IT GIVES YOU BACK YOUR LIFE, YOUR PEACE OF MIND – YOUR FREEDOM TO GROW – TO MOVE FORWARD, NO LONGER DRAGGED DOWN, HELD BACK BY AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT THAT SIMMERS WITH HATE AND SMOULDERS WITH ANGER. IT’S LIKE A HUGE BURDEN THAT YOU’VE BEEN CARRYING AROUND FOR TOO LONG IS LIFTED FROM YOUR HEART – AND YOU CAN WALK FREE.

Chris Carrier - a young man who at the age of ten had been abducted, beaten shot and left in a ditch for dead speaks of his approach.

 

“When we are wronged we can either respond by seeking revenge or we can forgive.  If we choose revenge, our lives will be consumed by anger.  When vengeance is served it leaves one empty. Anger is a hard urge to satisfy, and can become habitual. But forgiveness allows us to move on.”

 

2.  AND, THANK GOD, FORGIVENESS IS HEALING – MENDS THE FRACTURED FRIENDSHIPS AND RUINED RELATIONSHIPS. WE KNOW THE PRICE SOCIETY PAYS FOR ALL THE BROKEN BITS OF PEOPLE’S HEARTS THAT LITTER OUR FAMILIES, WORK PLACES AND COMMUNITIES – HOW LIVES ARE BATTERED AND DAMAGED BY THE BITTER MEMORIES AND THE HARD HEARTS.

 

3.  WHEN FORGIVENESS COMES IT RELEASES A POWERFUL MEDICINE INTO THE BLOODSTREAM OF THE COMMUNITY…IT MAKES THINGS RIGHT WHERE THEY WERE WRONG…WHOLE WHEN THEY WERE DAMAGED.

 

 

4.  AND ALTHOUGH PEOPLE MIGHT INITIALLY BE SUSPICIOUS OF SUCH A CLAIM, FORGIVENESS IS IN FACT A SIGN OF STRENGTH NOT WEAKNESS.

 

 IN OUR STIFF NECKED PRIDE, WE IMAGINE THAT IF WE  WERE TO MAKE THE MOVE ACROSS THE BURNING BRIDGE THAT WE WOULD BE DEMONSTRATING THAT WE ARE A SOFT TOUCH…AND THAT IT WOULD BE SOME KIND OF CAPITULATION TO THE WRONG DONE US SOME KIND OF SOFT OPTION RESPONSE, WHEN WHAT IS NEEDED IS A FIRM RESOLVE NOT TO BEND AND NOT TO TAKE INITIATIVES IN PUTTING THINGS RIGHT.

 

BUT, IN FACT, IT IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH OF CHARACTER AND SPIRITUAL WISDOM TO GO DOWN THE ROAD OF MAKING THINGS BETTER – REFUSING TO LET THE UGLINESS SPOIL AND DEFACE RELATIONSHIPS AND LEAVE SOMETHING SICK AT THE CENTRE OF OUR LIVES. IT TAKES A BIG BIG HEART AND A DEEP DEEP WISDOM TO CHOSE THE WAY OF LOVING, CREATIVE, FORGIVENESS OVER THE WAY OF TIGHT LIPPED ACRIMONY AND SOURNESS.

 

Martin Luther King again:

“We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature hate tears down, hate destroys. By its very nature love creates and builds – love transforms with redemptive power.”

 

5.  AND THE WONDERFUL THING IS THAT BEING FORGIVEN RELEASES THE CAPACITY FOR  FORGIVENESS IN US…OPENS UP THE CHANNELS THAT WERE BLOCKED WHEN WE THOUGHT ALL THERE WAS RETRIBUTION, MEETING BITTERNESS WITH MORE BITTERNESS. AND THAT WAY OF THINKING FREEZES US UP INSIDE S0 THAT WE ARE INCAPABLE OF OFFERING FORGIVENESS TO OTHERS BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT BEEN FORGIVEN OURSELVES…OR BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT BEEN WILLING TO FORGIVE…

NOW, HOWEVER, A NEW DYNAMIC IS AT WORK – A RIVER OF HEALING CAN WASH OVER THE DRY PARCHED PLACES – WE START SOMETHING WONDERFUL WHEN WE OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF FORGIVENESS – WE ENABLE OTHERS TO RISE TO THAT CHALLENGE AND EMBRACE THAT POSSIBILITY.

 

WHICH MEANS OF COURSE THAT

6.  WHO FORGIVES WINS – NOT IN A TRIUMPHALIST WAY – BUT SIMPLY EMERGES THE WINNER FROM WHAT LOOKED LIKE A LOST SITUATION. INSTEAD OF SUCCUMBING TO THE POISON OF RESENTMENT – THE ONE WHO FORGIVES BECOMES THE MAKER OF MIRACLES – REUNIONS FOLLOW…HARMONY REPLACES DISCORD – THINGS ARE BETTER NOT WORSE…THINGS ARE POSITIVE NOT NEGATIVE – BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS MADE THAT CRUCIAL FIRST GESTURE – REACHED OUT A HAND – MADE THE LONG AWAITED PHONE CALL…RESOLVED NO LONGER TO LET THE DEMONS OF ANGER DOMINATE AND DESTROY.

 

 

BUT I HEAR YOU SAY… “THAT’S  ALL VERY WELL – BUT WHEN YOU’VE BEEN HURT AS BADLY AS I HAVE – YOU DON’T FIND FORGIVENESS EASY – OR EVEN POSSIBLE… A NICE THEORY – REALITY IS DIFFERENT HOWEVER…KEEP YOUR IDEALISM – ALL I HAVE ARE MY MEMORIES AND MY PAIN.”

 

SO,

HOW DO WE DO IT?

 

1.   IT CERTAINLY BEGINS WHEN WE UNDERSTAND THAT FORGIVENESS IS A COMMITMENT, AN ATTITUDE NOT A ONE OFF ACT. IT’S ABOUT SAYING – “WHO AM I AND WHAT AM I ABOUT.

I AM A RECONCILER – THIS IS WHAT THE GOSPEL IS ABOUT AND IT IS WHAT MY IDENTITY AS A CHRISTIAN IS ABOUT. I FOLLOW THE RECONCILER, WALK THE WAY OF THE CHRIST WHO CAME TO BRING RECONCILIATION BETWEEN US AND GOD, BETWEEN BROTHER AND BROTHER…NATION AND NATION…”

 

 THIS IS THE STARTING POINT. MORE THAN SCREWING OURSELVES UP TO ONE HEROIC ACT OF FORGIVENESS – IT IS ABOUT SEEING THAT OUR FAITH IS ALWAYS TAKING US IN THE DIRECTION OF HEALING THE BROKENNESS…IT IS WHO WE ARE – WHAT WE ARE ABOUT…WHAT WE DO!

 

WE KNOW THAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT SOME KIND OF SAPPY LIMP IGNORING OF INJUSTICES –WE CONTINUE TO CHAMPION THE CAUSE OF THE UNDERDOG AND THOSE LEFT ON THE SIDELINES – IT IS NOT ABOUT PRETENDING THAT BAD THINGS DON’T HAPPEN IN THE WORLD – OR GET DONE TO US…IT’S JUST NOT BEING CONTROLLED BY THEM – NOT LETTING OUR HURTS CRIPPLE OUR CAPACITY TO BE CREATIVE, TO BE HUMAN.

 

2.  BUT PEOPLE WHO SPEAK ABOUT THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF FORGIVENESS ARE RIGHT – IT IS FOR MOST OF US FOR MOST OF THE TIME IMPOSSIBLY HARD TO WHIP OURSELVES UP INTO A FORGIVING FRAME OF MIND…WHICH IS WHY THE BIBLE UNDERSTANDS THAT FORGIVENESS IS A GIFT, A GRACE.

 

3.   TO MANAGE IT FROM WITHIN THE RESOURCES OF OUR OWN STRENGTH OF CHARACTER MAY BE POSSIBLE IF WE ARE VERY SPECIAL PEOPLE – BUT FOR MOST, IT IS CLEAR THAT BREAKING THROUGH THE BRICK WALL OF THEIR ANGER AND BITTERNESS TO THE FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS IS MORE THAN THEY CAN RISE TO…IS POSSIBLE ONLY THROUGH THE GRACE OF GOD…WHO POURS HIS FORGIVENESS WITHOUT MEASURE INTO OUR SOUL AND EQUIPS US FOR THE CALLING TO BE RECONCILERS, HEALERS OF SOULS; LEFT TO OUR OWN DEVICES – FOR MOST OF US THE SOURNESS WOULD REMAIN…THE MOUNTAIN WOULD BE TO HIGH TO CLIMB…

BUT BY HIS GRACE – THROUGH THE GIFT OF HIS SPIRIT OF FORGIVENESS WE CAN MELT THE ICEBERG OF OUR HEART – AND WE CAN REACH ACROSS AND BEYOND THE DIVISIONS THAT THREATEN TO ROB US OF SO MUCH…

Gordon Wilson who clutched his daughter’s hand in the dust and rubble of the Enniskilen bombing spoke from the heart and from the harsh realities of his grief when he said:

“Those who have to account for this deed will have to face a judgement of God which is way beyond my forgiveness. It would be wrong for me to give the impression that the gunmen and the bombers should be allowed to walk the streets freely. But…whether or not they are judged here on earth by a court of law…I do my very best in human terms to show forgiveness…the last word rests with God. “

 

 

AND IF WE EVER FIND OURSELVES THINKING:

“WHAT DOES HE KNOW…THE GOD UNTOUCHED AND UNTOUCHABLE – ABOUT MY PAIN AND WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO ME BY THIS PERSON OR THAT PERSON…THE GOD ALOOF IN HIS IMPENTRABLE PERFECTIONS…

WE LOOK AT THE ONE WHO TEACHES US ABOUT FORGIVENESS – WHO DARES TO CALL US TO WALK IN THAT SPIRIT OF RECONCILING LOVE… THE ONE WHO ENDURED A CATALOGUE OF INJUSTICE BETRAYAL, TORTURE, CRIMES DONE AGAINST HIS INNOCENCE THAT WOULD HAVE ENTITLED HIM TO RAGE AGAINST HUMANITY AND TO WAVE HIS FIST IN THE FACE OF THE SPIRIT OF FORGIVENSS…

THE ONE WHO TELLS US TO FORGIVE NOT SEVEN TIMES

BUT SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN

IS THE ONE WHO FROM HIS BLOOD STAINED CROSS

LOOKS OUT ACROSS A WORLD THAT COULD

CRUCIFY LOVE

AND SAYS

FATHER FORGIVE THEM

 

FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.  LET US PRAY. FORGIVENESS: