Today we’re going to talk about forgiveness. We’re going to talk about what it is and what it’s not.
We’re going to talk about when forgiveness is the combination of hard-won humility and the grace of the Holy Spirit, and when it’s abused as a pacifying and dominating tool to cover up legitimate grievance and sweep conflict under the rug.
We’re going to talk about it in scripture, in our own hearts and lives, and we’re going to talk about it in terms of what happened in Charlottesville.
In the gospels, Jesus talks about forgiveness constantly—on 41 separate occasions in Matthew, Mark, and Luke alone.
The word “forgiveness” appears 46 times in the Hebrew scriptures, and 18 times from Acts through Revelation.
It’s a really important topic in the Bible, and in fact, the very first mention of it in the scriptures is at the end of our incident in Genesis today, when Joseph forgives his brothers.
Joseph’s brothers had plotted to murder him, and only at the last minute were talked into selling him into slavery. They tried to ruin his life, and would have succeeded without God’s intervention.
There are some important parallels here in the historical relationship of White Americans to Black Americans.
So what enabled Joseph to forgive his brothers?
How do we untangle our complicated emotions around justice and peace, reform and reconciliation, when forgiveness is holy and life-giving and when it is a cop-out from conflict?
A big part of the problem is that the Church has told us our whole lives to forgive, but has really never explained how to do it.
“Just forgive,” we’re told. Well, how? Continue reading