Blogging Towards Sunday, February 2, 2009Forgiveness: is typically defined as the process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger for a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. (Wikipedia Definition) The faith tradition of following Jesus talks about forgiveness in relationship with confession (which literally means to turn 180 degrees around and head in a different direction) which together leads towards reconciliation with God and with one another. Redemption is perhaps used in the Bible more than forgiveness, a notion that's more about wholeness, healing, restoration not to the past - but freeing the past to inhabit the present and move into the future.
The Vocabulary of Faith
The Vocabulary of Faith
Some interesting quotes about forgiveness that are food for thought and a cool youtube video with more:
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner was you.” - Lewis Smedes
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that hold and get free.” - Catherine Ponder
“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.” – Cherie Carter-Scott
“It is impossible even to begin the act of living one’s enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly. It sets us free without wanting anything in return.” – Henri Nouwen
“When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to him forever.” - Henry Cloud & John Townsend.
Below are some scriptures I consider relevant and am preaching upon on Sunday. I think they say that forgiveness is first and foremost about relationship, restoring one, resurrecting one or beginning one. There's a connection between such a relationship (or reconciliation) with God and with one another. There's also a deep connection between how we forgive others, and how God forgives us (and vice versa). What we often overlook in Christian circles is the need to forgive ourselves. Maybe that's our biggest problem/challenge with forgiveness. Yet are there things that we can't forgive - sexual abuse - murder - treason - terrorism - abuse in general? I don't think that forgiving is forgetting. You can force yourself to forget, in fact don't our relationships always bring things to mind? I think it's more about freeing ourselves from the power that our memories, pains and anger have over us as individuals and as a people or system. It's costly - and free - and the only thing that makes relationships grow.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (Today's New International Version)
Matthew 6:14-15 (The Message by Eugene Peterson)
What scriptures come to mind when you think of forgiveness? I also think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son [Luke15:11-32], Joseph forgiving his brothers [Genesis 50], Psalm 51, the Lord’s Prayer [Matthew 6:5-13] in which we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others, the call to forgive up to 77 times [Matthew 18:21-35] and the story of Zaccheus [Luke 19:1-9]. I think that most of our life-changing encounters with God are rooted in forgiveness or redemption when we have experienced true spiritual brokenness, humiliation, hopelessness and move through and beyond them. It’s when we come to the end of ourselves that we can most clearly see God beckoning us to accept the kind of forgiveness that will truly transform our life and quite possibly restore us to life.
Often we'd ask how much and who should be forgiven? I preached a sermon once talking about Osama bin Laden - could we, should we forgive him? The reality is I doubt I'll ever face him. Anger over that doesn't really eat me up. But other relationships, still broken and/or damaging to and for me eat me up. I hear Jesus inviting his audience and followers to face those broken places and relationships in us, between us and between us and God. When asked if we should forgive up to 7 times, Jesus says no, up to 7 times 77 times...[Matthew 18:21-35] I don't think it's about the number. He's trying to point to the existential reality we have to choose in order to experience the fullness of God - we have to be people of forgiveness, reconciliation - peace-makers, who let go of our anger rather than let it consume us. It's not about laying down and letting ourselves be treated like crap, or martyrs, or repeatedly abused. It's about power - true power - the power to let go of the past in order to let the future - something new - life - I'd call it the love and power of God - in,to let it begin to work within us and to activate us to choose life and to choose life abudantly.
The question we more have to face is: can we forgive those that have hurt us, abused us (verbally, relationally, physically maybe even sexually), treated us injustly, dehumanized us, taken us for granted, used us, marginalized us? Can we? And why should we? How much power do those people have over us? I think odds are it's a lot more than Osama bin Laden or Hitler does.
I've been taking a parenting class, positive discipline, based upon the work of German Psychologist Alfred Alder who wrote about gemeinshaftsgefühl – a notion that the foundation of the human condition is that we want to be in community and find our meaning in relationship. I think forgiveness points to that. Our last class I learned about mirror neurons - that something in our brain actually drags us to copying or imitating the things we see and experience in social interaction. Here's a great 14 minute NOVA video on it [link].
Maybe that's what forgiveness is about - paying it forward. Monkey see - monkey do. The more we forgive, the more we're forgiven. The more we relate, the more we find our meaning in relationship. Maybe that's what Jesus is pointing to, and the Apostle Paul says we are to be ambassadors of in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21?