Forgiveness is never easy. It’s a process and can take a long time. I hope I’m not the only one who, thinking I’ve forgiven someone magnanimously, wakes up in the night a couple of days later, seething with resentment. Forgiveness is hard work, and yet it is the cement of community life. Jesus, who shows us the heart of our gracious and compassionate God, calls us to be a forgiving people. Forgiveness is part of the nature of God – and Jesus shows it: for him it was a crucifying experience, and for many of us it may feel like it. Without forgiveness there is little hope of transformation and new life, yet I know from painful experience how easy it is to get stuck in the pit of resentment. Nelson Mandela puts it succinctly, ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.’
In the Scargill Community we learn about the liberating and humbling nature of forgiveness. There’s nothing more humbling than being forgiven when my weaknessess and failings are brought into the light of this grace. Community would become a very narrow place if there was no forgiveness. Our rule of life speaks of keeping our relationships open, honest and loving; a tough call, yet liberating.
Professor Jonathan Sacks, once the Chief Rabbi, says we need forgiveness as it ‘helps us sustain relationships, build marriages that last, stay close to our children and faithful to our friends. We say things that hurt and do things that harm. So do others to us. The mere fact that we can apologise and be forgiven is one of the blessed gifts of humanity, and it isn’t simple at all. It is underwritten by a certain view of the universe, the belief that God forgives’.
This last week we have been confronted with atrocities in the US, unresolved and (understandable) resentments over Mrs Thatcher’s life and death, and the ongoing relational struggles that go on in our churches and communities. A lot to process, a lot to struggle with – with God, ourselves and others as we dare to climb the ladder of forgiveness, even if we’ve only reached the first rung.
Forgiveness is not an optional extra, it is a process that brings healing to communities and ultimately to ourselves. If we want a future, then an attitude of forgiveness will be working its way into our hearts.
Loving Jesus give us your mercy and grace!