Forgiveness. In my memory, one scholar of religious traditions claims forgiveness is Christian faith’s distinguishing characteristic. Forgiveness was Jesus’s dying prayer; it’s our prayer, too, when we pray using the words he taught his followers.
But as one of you asked last Sunday, in the face of gun violence, how do we forgive? How do we forgive those in power who do nothing in response, or whose words fuel the rage in our culture? I wish the events of this past week didn’t require such questions, but I ask them myself.
Forgiveness may be Jesus’s most difficult command, particularly in the face of something unspeakable, whether towards an individual or a community. Forgiveness seems to fly in the face of reasonable responses for justice or safety. And yet, each week we pray for forgiveness.
The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and daughter Mpho Tutu, also ordained Episcopal clergy, has been helpful to me lately. The Tutus talk not only of the violence of apartheid but of struggles in their own family. They describe the psychological work and give spiritually practical steps. Father and daughter Tutu are also clear that forgiveness is a subversion of justice, nor does it require that we forget all that happened. Both authors have come to recognize that we humans need forgiveness for our personal and societal healing.
If you are looking at growing in your own ability to forgive – and who among us is an expert? – I hope you’ll take a look at their book and come join us this Sunday. Given the number of us who have work to do in learning to forgive, I hope you’ll bring a friend, too, as together we explore this path of forgiveness, of healing ourselves and our world.
Grace and peace, this week and always,