Forgiveness

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Luke 23:33-34

This post is prompted by this study plan.

What is it like to watch your son, your brother, your leader, your friend be unjustly killed? How quickly would you forgive his murderers?

I haven’t had to answer this question. Unfortunately, many have. I don’t know if I have what it takes to forgive in such circumstances. I do know that Christ said we should forgive and set the example by forgiving his killers.

Forgiveness on a much smaller level is a necessary part of every relationship. We all screw up in all kinds of ways. Mistakes, little lies, things we forget. They all build up and can damage these relationships without a little forgiveness.

Of course, there are relationships somewhere in the middle – at some point all the screw ups amount to abuse. At what point do you break off the relationship? And can you forgive in such a situation?

I don’t think forgiveness requires submitting. It must involve making the choice to do what is right – to leave an abusive relationship, to fight an unjust situation in society. What does forgiveness mean in these situations? It means keeping yourself safe, but praying for those who are trying to hurt you. It means seeking justice, not retribution. It means showing kindness where the other showed pettiness.

Once again, there are many situations I have not experienced. I can’t say how I would handle these situations or what others should do. I do know Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother seventy times seven times. I know that He died to make all that is unjust just. I’m doing the little things I can to make that happen here and now and I pray that all the wrongs – the little and the big – will be righted sooner, rather than later.

Remembrance

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Luke 22:19-20

It’s becoming increasingly common to leave behind organized religion. Many of my generation wonder what the point is.

The point is to remember. In an age when information is cheap and easy to obtain, it can be a little mystifying why such organizations are necessary. Perhaps we don’t need them anymore?

We’ve seen over the last several years, though, that misinformation is even more easily obtained. Organized religion, along with many institutions such as government agencies, universities, libraries, and hospitals, stand as bulwarks against the flood of unfortunate misunderstanding and despicable lies that are out there.

Our faith has been shaken because these institutions are sometimes the purveyors of these misunderstandings and lies. But any enduring institution has both a means to correct error and a reason to do so. Enduring institutions have founding documents that provide the reason for their existence and provide a guide back to the right path when they go astray. And these documents are available to all.

Christianity is struggling right now, but I have faith that it will endure. At its heart, it has the Last Supper. Perhaps its most widely practiced ritual, the Eucharist or communion (what members of my church call the sacrament), is a reminder that at the heart of our religion is love powerful enough to lead to sacrifice. At the Last Supper, Christ both foretold his death and offered powerful teachings on love and love expressed as service.

When we take the sacrament, we are reminded of this love and we are encouraged to love as He did. This remembrance is why Christianity has endured. It is why it will continue to endure. Other philosophies and lifestyles will be forgotten and fade. But the simple and powerful rituals of Christianity will keep it alive.

I am grateful for the sacrament. I am grateful for other rituals, such as baptism. I grateful for buildings to worship in – far more grateful today than I was a few weeks ago. I am grateful for the other institutions that are getting us through this – government for and by the people, hospitals, the CDC, grocery stores. I am grateful that this is occurring in the internet age, when we have so much to enrich our lives without leaving home. I am grateful for friends and family to chat with so we can stay sane. I am grateful for a loving God who will turn all that comes out way to our good.