Easier Said Than Done
Broadly speaking, forgiveness is held up as essential to a good life. It’s a virtue. It’s something decent people do. In practice, in real life, forgiveness is much more of a puzzle, and a much heavier lift. When a person does real harm to another, when there are dire consequences to someone’s words and actions, discerning just how to move forward with grace and healing is not a simple matter. Revenge would be simple; forgiveness… not so much. Many people say forgiving someone is an independent, unilateral decision that a wounded party makes of their own prerogative, for their own well-being. It doesn’t depend on whether the person who was in the wrong tries to make amends, or even acknowledges that they did anything bad. In extreme cases, an evil-doer may delight in the harm they have done, and a person hurt by their actions will still choose a spirit of forgiveness, in order to save themselves, to keep from descending into hatred, and to break the hold that the evil actions might have on their lives. This is the approach of one woman who famously forgave Dylann Roof after he murdered her family member and 8 others at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC in 2015. Her choice may have made no impact on the hate-filled white supremacist, but it is central to her emotional survival of the tragedy. I have known many people who could not abide this understanding of forgiveness. The idea of forgiving without remorse, contrition, or restitution is crazy to many people. A friend mine who endured decades of workplace discrimination could not forgive the choices her boss made, knowing the negative consequences it had for her career. She’d considered him a mentor and friend, and when he acknowledged the discrimination but refused to address it, it was an enduring thorn of betrayal in her life that she could not escape. Another friend survived years of sexual abuse as a child. His abusers never acknowledged the evil of their actions, never apologized, never expressed any concern for the pain he had lived with. He has readily forgiven many people for many things in his life, but the idea of forgiving his abusers elicits a bitter scoff from him. If there's never any attempt to make things right, how could he ever forgive? The next four Sundays at The Table, we are going to deeply and seriously examine the central Christian theme of Forgiveness. We will avoid foregone conclusions about when, how and why forgiveness is the right path for faithful people to choose. We will share our stories and our struggles, and we will grapple with how the ethics of Christianity and the example of Christ should guide us through the most difficult experiences life presents. Easy answers are not guaranteed in these gatherings, but grace and love will be there, for sure. It’s a promise from God. See you soon.
1/13 Part 1: What is forgiveness, actually?
1/20 Part 2: Forgiving Others
1/27 Part 3: Receiving Forgiveness (or forgiving ourselves)
2/3 Part 4: God’s Forgiveness
The Table is a Christian church in Davenport Iowa, pursuing transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith
Worship Sundays, 5pm
102 E. 2nd St. in Davenport