By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
The only hope for the world is forgiveness. Generation upon generation, and through evils of many kinds, Christian communities are required by God to offer a wounded world a way of dealing with pain and sorrow through repentance for our failures, and showing love to one another.
Forgiveness is a most abused, misused and often trivialized word. All too often it is dismissed because those who misuse it speak in terms of forgetting, not forgiving. You and I will never come within a life’s span of forgiveness unless we recognize that it is the moral foundation of all human life together in community. Forgiveness, to be received and given in ways that sustain and edify, requires that we live in the kind of communities that allow individuals to repent and make amends. This requires that our communities and our legal systems support and encourage these processes for healing and reconciliation … and that the Christian church honor its calling by God to build new and healthier ways of living together.
As the 2016 election season comes to an end, forgiveness will be the only thing that will help heal the divides in our nation. This healing is something we can only learn and accomplish together. The good work of forgiving each other requires incredible support from the community of faith. In order to give and receive forgiveness we need to stay focused on the necessities of justice-love, mishpat-agape. Mishpat (justice) requires honesty and emotional maturity. Agape is compassion and healing, a commitment not to do harm, (irrespective of feelings, even toward our fiercest opponents). The Christian community needs to be able to imagine, keep the vision alive, of what healing looks like, what liberation and transformation look like—and we need to pray and meditate hard on these things.
When someone you or I have hurt or wounded forgives us, we are spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience. When you or I forgive someone who has hurt or wounded us, we are spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride. For both parties, forgiveness means freedom again … freedom to be and live at peace not only inside our own skins, but to also rejoice in each other’s presence. Rejoicing in each other’s presence: maybe this year it is also what Thanksgiving is all about.