"Forgiveness is the final form of love." -Reinhold Niebuhr
About this time of the year last year I went and watched a film about forgiveness (actually in the same room that we’ll remember Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness next week!). As We Forgive is all about the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide that took place, ironically enough, during Holy Week in 1994.
If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this recent atrocity- neighborhoods, churches, communities, and, in some cases, families were ripped apart by mass-scale bloodshed. The film focuses on putting the pieces back together. Forgiving (but, certainly not forgetting). Moving on. Together.
Perhaps the strongest part of this film was its concreteness. It’s easy to get hypothetical about this sort of thing. We tend to boil these topics down to some far-fetched example where it eventually seems fair not to forgive. (“If my spouse ______, there’s no way I could ever forgive him/her.”) In a lot of ways, that seems to be a cop-out. If we imagine a situation, where forgiving is unimaginable, then all of the sudden its okay for us not to forgive something petty. What if, as Christians, we lived as if forgiveness was not only imaginable, not only possible, but normal?
By normal, I don’t mean average or easy. Everyone knows what a crazy thing it is to forgive. Everyone knows what it feels like to be wronged. By normal, I mean our default. What we do. How we live. Together.
How is this possible? Where does this vision come from?
It has to be God. It has to be how He treats us. It must be how Jesus teaches and practices this radical forgiveness. We’re in bad shape trying to come up with this kind of thing on our own. We’ve learned (and taught) plenty of ways to get around forgiving others, even when we claim God’s forgiveness for ourselves. The movie portrayed this. It showed folks sitting down with the people who killed their loved ones and finding a way to live together. It showed the God-kind of forgiveness. The kind of living that is both free and costly.
Free, because we’ve already been infinitely outspent. Costly, because it requires us to lay down our pride, cop-outs, and hypotheticals and deal with the messiness of hurt and healing.
I pray that as we remember God’s forgiveness through Christ’s faithfulness, we consider places in our lives that need forgiving and people who we need to forgive. Prepare us, Lord, for the cost of this forgiveness. We thank you for your free forgiveness that we live in. Amen.