Second Journeys & Forgiveness
As gospel receivers and bearers, we as the church must never forget our unique job description…to reflect God’s mercy seat. It begins of course with our own profound experience of forgiveness, as it’s the one who is forgiven much that forgives much. Forgiveness is such a counter intuitive notion that its consideration itself can present us with a Second Journey. When stricken by great harm, everything in us seems to fight against forgiveness. Our natural response is for justice, an eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth. But then again, forgiveness is supernatural. It is not of the ordinary. It’s the very kind of thing that catches us off guard and seeks to set the heart of both the offender and the offended free.
Perhaps what is most difficult about the exchange of forgiveness is that it requires a death. For the offender, this entails letting go of the punishment deserved, and often even more binding, the unforgiving judgements the offender holds against his or her very self. Even in the weight of our wrong, God wants us to live and walk in unbound freedom, desiring us to be “free indeed.” For the offended the death can be even more difficult, but equally amazing. To forgive another requires the offended to release the offender from their hands of judgement and retribution, and that the offender die to their hope for a different or better past. This is a very difficult passage that requires that anger gives way to the presence of grief, a painful sorrow that marks the beginning of freedom.
To be sure, forgiveness is both a process and a moment. It necessitates accountability and boundaries, time and healing, and the frequently felt battle between letting go of judgment and picking it back up again. Being one who is marked by forgiveness; however, makes it a commodity that can always be unconditionally given. Forgiveness also hopes in the reconciliation of relationship, but unlike as it is with God, this is not always possible. True reconciliation is intimate and it is based upon a mutual willingness to talk deeply about what is needed for both to repair. It requires a level of vulnerability, strength, and humility; the weight of which many of us are unable to bear in order to adequately cross the chasm of harm that was created. Forgiveness alone frees us from a weight we no longer are in bondage to. Reconciliation not only frees us, but swings open a door to a new depth of relationship that is strangely only possible through harm healed through forgiveness, repair, and a mutual commitment to love.