Sunday, November 11, 2007

Forgiveness

I've mentioned and quoted Fred Peatross before and given links to his blog - which unfortunately he has now discontinued. However, he continues to send me an email "devotional" every once in a while and for the most part they are very good. I would like to give a link to these posts because they must exist somewhere in cyberspace but until I find them you can find some of his stuff here on hillschurch. (If someone has a link for him please forward it to me in the comments.)

His message is about the difficulty of forgiveness. I make a few comments at the end. Here is his email post.

Forgiving for Faulty People

Twenty-three years ago Pope John Paul walked into a cell in a Roman prison and forgave the man who tried to kill him. But the Pope is a professional forgiver which, on the surface, appears easier for such a high placed professional to forgive when he knows ahead of time that the whole world will be watching. It is much harder for an ordinary person, whom nobody is watching, to forgive and forget.

Never underestimate the demands that forgiving puts on the average person's modest power to love. Some skeptics, when they heard Jesus forgive people, challenged: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Novelist Charles William said that forgiving is really a game-we can only play at it, essentially we cannot do it.

We talk a good forgiving line as long as somebody else needs to do it, but few of us have the heart for it while we are dangling from one end of a bond broken by somebody else's cruelty. Yet people do forgive and they do heal themselves of their pain. But no one seems to be born with much talent for forgiving. It is love's toughest work, and love's biggest risk. We learn from scratch, and learning almost always runs against the grain.

The truth is we forgive best when we go at it in bits and pieces, and for specific acts. We bog down when we try to forgive people in a grand manner, because wholesale forgiving is almost always fake. Forgiving anything at all is a minor miracle; forgiving carte blanche is silly. Nobody can do it. Except God.


My Comments:
I would agree that forgiving is difficult. I would also agree that we go at it in bits and pieces. But I think forgiveness is a bit like the grief process that we go through when someone close to us dies. Because the truth is that we often have lost a friend or family member with the death kiss of betrayal. The initial offense or betrayal is like the funeral - you need to go through this process of accepting that you've been offended or betrayed and deal with it - acknowledging it, perhaps sharing it, and then putting it to rest. In that way forgiveness is an event - in Fred's terms "forgiving carte blanche" However, like grief, memories of the event spring up and need to be dealt with on a daily basis. These memories each need to be dealt with by another act of forgiveness. They become more infrequent with time but nonetheless still need to be dealt with and forgiven. The deeper the betrayal the longer the forgiving needs to go on.

Sometime we are tricked into thinking that we haven't really forgiven the other person when one of these memories is triggered by an event. Sometimes we are surprised and dismayed by the depth of feeling that is exposed by these memories and think "How could I still feel like this if I really forgave?". But the truth is that we did forgive - we just need to keep forgiving. That's the tough part. To quote Eugene Peterson: "It's a long obedience in the same direction." Ultimately we really can't do it without God.

2 comments:

alan said...

I Forgive you!!!

hillschurch said...

Now what did I do? Or did I do something a long time ago and I'm still in need of being forgiven because it was so heinous?