Bain White: Forgiveness has no memory
April 19, 2018
How do you feel you rank when it comes to forgiveness? I realize all of us have been in positions during our lifetimes when we have come to the conclusion that we have been hurt by another person. We also recognize that certain hurts are much worse than others.
Most of us will acknowledge that being hurt by another person we consider to be other than a friend is just part of doing business, but when it comes to being hurt by someone who is close or especially dear to us, it really gets under our skin.
The Bible refers to being hurt by someone we love as being particularly onerous. Those we love are not those we expect to be hurt by, and yet, many times, that is precisely the case. We, as human beings, have had the tendency to come up with expressions on how to deal with that kind of hurt, and the one that most often comes to my mind is the expression, "I will forgive, but I will never forget." My question then becomes, is that form of forgiveness something we should aspire to attain, or something we should refrain from?
One of the covenantal relationships we celebrate during these initial Sundays after the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is that of reconciliation. Reconciliation can mean, in a theological sense, a return to faith or harmony after some form of conflict, a re-establishment of friendship or a resolution. In the continuing theological sense, it also requires that all would return to what is desired, without the sense of continuing resolution, as in forgetting the fact that a conflict existed.
As Jesus had celebrated the establishment of the Holy Eucharist with His disciples, he shared in that thanksgiving with those He knew would betray and abandon Him. After Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he was arrested by a mob of people who desired to see Him be crucified and out of the way of the reigning few who desired to see things remain just as they were. As He was arrested, His disciples fled from the mob and abandoned Him, in spite of their many statements that they would follow Him anywhere, under any circumstances, even unto death.
Talk about being hurt to the core by those who are close or especially dear to us! There was not one of the disciples who stepped forward and went with Jesus; all abandoned Him in His time of greatest need. The disciples were in fear of their lives after Jesus was crucified and buried and did not yet fully understand the ramifications of His true mission, which was to take upon Himself the sins of the world, to be the atoning sacrifice for all time for our sins past, present and future and to be the guarantor for us for life, and life everlasting.
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When the women at the empty tomb encountered the risen Lord, they didn't fully understand, but they were chosen by Him to deliver the good news that Jesus Christ had been resurrected and would meet with them soon. When Jesus met with the disciples, who were still in fear for their lives and unsure about the unproven Resurrection, Jesus met with them in a number of parallel circumstances. Each time, He appeared from nowhere, and no one was aware of how He came or how He left. He was just present with them when they needed Him most.
Secondly, each time He met with them, He used the greeting which is most often translated as "Peace" or "Peace be with you." The word actually used is shalom, but to narrowly define it by the English word "peace" does not give a full understanding of its meaning. To more fully understand its usage, perhaps expanding the meaning to say perfection, harmony, wholeness, completeness or even holiness might be better. In Hebrew wholeness, completeness or perfection all dealt with holiness and were descriptive of the Lord God Almighty, so even uttering the word "shalom" should be done in an appropriate location, with appropriate reverence. So, when Jesus met His disciples after His resurrection and greeted them with the word "shalom," He was letting them know He had forgiven them, that they were restored to their rightful place, in spite of their actions against Him and, most importantly, that He would forget their sin as if it had never occurred.
Our faith revolves around our own understanding of how Jesus died for our sins as an atoning sacrifice, once for all time. Our faith acknowledges that we are never free from sin, but we continue to strive for a sin-free existence.
Our faith also acknowledges that there is nothing we can do on our own volition that will guarantee entrance into Heaven, but it is completely through grace, granted to us by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that guarantees us a place at that banquet, where we shall have life, and life everlasting, because He has forgiven and forgotten our sins.
May we also strive to be in relationship with others and with our Lord God Almighty to reconcile ourselves with the Lord, but also with those against whom we have sinned or who have sinned against us. May we so change our lives that, when asked what we are forgiving, might respond by saying, "I don't remember."
The Rev. Bain White is pastor of St. Mark's Church of Grace.