Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Forgiveness

A volcano erupts in Iceland, and we are stuck six extra days in Dublin. The idiot lights blaze on the dashboard of my little car and the thermostat rises out of control. The guard pounds on the door in the night shouting "Fire!" and insists we must evacuate, and I look around at all the stuff that may go up in flames. The title to the villa turns out to be irreparably tainted. The company is downsizing, and there could be lay-offs.

Time and again when some mini- (or maxi-) crisis erupts, I notice how much less angst I suffer now than I would have, say, 20 years ago. Gone are the days when car problems keep me awake nights for fear we won’t be able to make the house payment.

So have I grown up some? Matured in faith?

Not so much. It is just that now I know we have the money to deal with it. Extra days in Dublin become gift, an unplanned holiday. Redundancy (with severance package) would be gravy. Even loss of our stuff could be refreshing!

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness. About Jesus, hanging on the cross, surrounded by mockers yet still able to cry, “Father, forgive them!” About a love so great that He would die that horrific death for a people who didn’t know they needed His forgiveness and didn’t care—all to open the door to reconciliation, to heal a broken relationship.

And about how He calls His people to the same quality of loving forgiveness. Jesus looked human sin full in the face and refused to hold it against us. Though we are already dead because of it, separated from Him by a vast chasm we have no power cross, Jesus built the bridge with His own body so that we can cross into living-giving community with God.

He regarded all our mocking rejection, and our frailty, and loved us anyway.

How could He do that? Not such a big question. Jesus, God, is, well... ABLE. He has it all, needs nothing, dwells in the eternal now.

Here’s the BIG question: how can I offer that same love to those who do evil to me?

Forgiveness is on my mind because when I taught on it the other night I watched pain play on the faces of some of my listeners. I knew their eyes masked stories of betrayal, injustice, and even disappointment with God-who-did-not-rescue-but-allowed-suffering-and-death.

In his essay in the International Herald Tribune on August 7th. Anand Giridharadas posed the theory that cultural willingness to stand in line evidences the growth of a middle class. Poverty must fight and claw in a terrifying free-for-all for survival. The middle class knows there is enough to go around, and so grows the generosity to recognize the dignity and need of another, a generosity that will patiently wait for the fairness of one’s “turn.”

Could it be that our ability to be generous with forgiveness reflects the same kind of security? That there is enough—enough for me and for everyone else, too? Enough that I not only don’t need to scratch and push and grab to take care of my own, but I don’t need to cling to what I do have. “There’s plenty more where that came from!”--a shout of rejoicing that can absorb hurt, refuse offense, give grace, display equanimity, LOVE even when nothing, or even evil, is returned.

A shout like that would imply confidence that I am boundlessly, endlessly forgiven; boundlessly, endlessly loved. Not that we no longer experience pain, grief, humiliation, or disruption. Jesus suffered it all. But there is no fear. Just as I no longer fear losing my job if my car breaks down, there is no fear in Jesus that I will end up alone if another person rejects me or even hates me. Fear is replaced with the humble dignity of one who, like Jesus, needs nothing more than the endless resources of God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.... Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion…. (from 2 Corinthians 9:6-11)

We serve the God who is sovereign over all. We can never use up His resources or outgive Him!

1 comment:

Sharon said...

A couple nights ago, in response to a series of disappointments with the slow pace of God's work in the lives of some of those I love, or in response to his apparent lack of urgency in pulling them back to himself, I wrote a poem entitled, "I need someone to convince me again that the sacred story I've treasured is true." This post seems to be part of the answer to that cry. His grace is enough.