March 28, 2012
According to William Blake, the ministry of Jesus Christ is one of forgiveness of sins. For many Christians the emphasis they find in forgiveness that they themselves are forgiven, and feel emancipated as a result. They find that they are no longer captive to their former lifestyle, choices, addictions, or general naughtiness. They are forgiven and so able to start afresh, living new in the eyes of God. I have seen many people and am very close to one who feels that that is the greatest gift of Christianity. For many I am sure that is the case.
I, however, never got that much out of forgiveness. I wasn’t really the kind of person who made glamorously fantastic mistakes. There were no drugs or sex in my youth. My rebellion was much more subversive. I was good (which is messed up in a completely different way). As a result, a faith based on being forgiven didn’t really mean that much to me. As I have grown in my faith, aged in my life, and generally become older and bolder I have found that for me the most important element of forgiveness is the power to forgive others. The very reason I was good in my youth was because I had a lot of things to forgive in others. It shaped my personality more than I may ever be able to fully understand. But, as I have taken steps towards personal insight I have learned that I can forgive. I have also learned that those things which go unforgiven continue to wreak havoc on our spirits.
I think that many of the things which we have not forgiven are things we have not yet accepted. It is not that we mean to foster hatred or hostility, we just haven’t gotten around to remembering or acknowledging how a person, situation, or experience impacted us. God gives us the ability to forgive but the first step is recognition. Jesus teaches about the power of not just being forgiven, but of forgiving. On his last night with his disciples he teaches them to pray, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”. This is never intended to be a tit-for-a-tat system of scoring sin and forgiveness, but rather a recognition that we need to offer forgiveness because we have been offered it. Which side of forgiveness do you need most? We all need both, but some of us dwell much more on one end than the other. Whichever end you are on, I invite you to live in the gospel of forgiveness for a part of Lent. Forgive, and be forgiven. They go together to create the wholeness that we all need.