Of all the demands of being a Christian – being merciful, welcoming, hope-filled – is not the hardest of them forgiveness? I can believe in the Resurrection, come to my neighbor’s side, fight for justice in society and even give of out of abundance for the good of the world – and still deny what is given to me by God in Christ in bucketfuls. Forgiveness.
In counseling others through the real-life workings of forgives, I have quipped: “I am not Amish.” What I mean by that is that, for me, forgiveness is less a knee-jerk, hardwired, built-in posture that I have heard about and marveled at in the Amish who forgive after horrendous things have happened to loved ones. Forgiveness looms over me. It will not allow me to relativize or rationize. I either forgive or withhold forgiveness. I either let go or hold on.
In my life, I would say that my scorecard on forgiveness is flawed and incomplete. And there have been moments of grace that have surprised me.
As New Hampshire debates whether or not to repeal the death penalty, a common moral refrain is how might we feel if an evil-filled convict murders a loved one of ours? We imagine the worst thing that could happen to one of our own and then put a hypothetical to the test: would we forgive a murderer? A murderer who took a life of a spouse or child? How could we?
I heard the following story on the Moth Radio show as I was driving back from Vermont last week. The Moth is a fantastic production that I highly recommend: you will laugh and cry as you listen. (The Moth comes to Portsmouth March 8) Hector Black has been involved with Civil Rights and justice issues for decades. He shares a personal and heart-wrenching story that had me amazed and teary-eyed. The other two stories are good, and do listen to them, but make sure you listen to Hector.
God can do miracles. Forgiveness may be the ultimate gift for us to make our way though life in this world that can bring us unspeakable and even ordinary pain and loss.
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Click here and find Hector's story of Mercy