As many of you know, I am in the midst of writing my Credo, or my Sisyphusian faith statement (see what I did there? I made up a word to describe my faith statement, because that’s what I feel at times writing a faith statement is and does – create in me this new way of seeing and doing things, and at the same time make me entirely INSANE). I too feel as though I am pushing a boulder up a hill that never seems to have a conclusion. But to the point of this blog post. The most recent chapter’s theological topic was “Theological Anthropology,” or a really fancy and technical set of terms for “The Doctrine of ‘Man’.” The purpose of this chapter was to discuss where humanity came from (aka God created “in His/Their image…”), how we ended up completely broken and sinful (aka “original sin,” the fall, and how we drove a wedge between ourselves and God with our sin), and ultimately, how Christ came to reconcile humanity to God through his life, crucifixion on the cross, death and resurrection. Ultimate forgiveness came in the form of Christ; because of Christ, humanity – who was always perfectly created in the image of God, but still broken and sinful because of their own actions – was able to taste and see redemption and forgiveness, and life as it was in the beginning. This is a small taste of what Paul’s “new creation” theology might be seeking after: the idea that because of Christ, humanity is able to live a new life of forgiveness in God’s sight, despite having been broken, sinful, and having in this sinful state, rejected God entirely for thousands upon thousands of generations.
God through Christ makes it seem so easy to forgive humanity for our sins and our flaws, that is, if you disregard the entire Old Testament, where God and humanity go back and forth quite a bit (ain’t nobody got time for that?) and the theme of forgiveness (while DEFINITELY PRESENT) is a bit less at the forefront. Regardless, humanity is now and forever reconciled to God again, as it was in the beginning, because of Christ’s willingness to come in the form of a human
Christ came to spread forgiveness of sins and reconcile us to God. While Christ is God incarnate, and therefore forgiveness might come a bit more easily for him than for humanity, that doesn’t mean that I am any less forgiven, or capable of forgiving. Forgiveness is relative, and obviously everyone deals with being wronged in a very different way, so I’m not going to begin to expect that everyone “forgives and forgets” in the way that I do. But as Christians, we have the capacity to forgive (I’m not going to jump to expectation, because I think that’s a strong leap), since we were all forgiven of our sins and faults unconditionally.
When I was interviewing for CPE residencies, one of the most thought-provoking questions a supervisor asked me was “How do you apologize when you have wronged someone?” I thought, “Man! What a wonderful question!” Not only are apologies and asking for forgiveness a major pastoral concern, but something that we as future pastors, leaders of the church, and members of the Kingdom of God will have to deal with, work through, and humble ourselves to for the rest of this life. My response to the supervisor was that I will apologize by repeating what I have interpreted my wrong to be back to the person in my apology. In doing this, my hope is to show that I have understood and received my actions as hurtful, and will make every effort to never do them again. I also ask the person to point out to me should I ever make the same hurtful mistake again in the future.
Offering forgiveness for wrongs through prayer, or in person in this season of Lent is not only biblical, but can also set a person free. Harboring burdens and wrongs from long ago (even though they are certainly emotionally and/or physically painful) does not make the wrong go away, nor does it make the person who committed the wrong hurt alongside you. Allowing forgiveness to flow through prayer (or if you are courageous enough, in person, or through a letter) sets you free.
Apologies and asking for forgiveness, let alone offering it, are difficult, but the season of Lent is the perfect time to try…maybe once people have gotten used to not drinking coffee or beer…Kidding! (Its a joke!) In a season that encourages a turning inward (which is certainly good and an important practice for introspection and the bettering of self and one’s relationship with God), it is also good in the turning inward to examine relationships, problematic behaviors and in doing so, turn outward again to work to mend and repair those who were wronged and harmed (or approach those who wronged or harmed you – maturely, of course).
Gracious and forgiving Lord,
You sent your only Son to reconcile us to you,
and in doing so, we are forgiven of even our greatest of sins.
Help us and work in us in this season of Lent to turn inward
and examine the very things that have caused harm to ourselves and others.
Enlighten and illumine us to the ways in which we can mend relationships that have been torn apart,
Work in others to allow for an attitude of grace in offering forgiveness,
And give strength to those who come offering apologies for wrongs done.
Your Son made it possible for us to live in this “new creation” once and for all,
In your mercy, give us the strength to humble ourselves before one another to strengthen this community here on earth until we are united with Christ once again.
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