Welcome to Theology Thursdays!
This is a once-monthly subset of Theology Thursdays. Over the past year and a half, I have fallen in love with Anabaptism: Pacifism, the determined focus on the Jesus of the Gospels, forgiveness, and love. Each first Thursday of the month, I discuss different aspects of this branch of Christianity.
First of all, happy Fourth of July! Sometimes I like to imagine our founding fathers celebrating with us, with all the fireworks and cotton candy and sno-cones, and I think they would be terrified. No, this isn't a comment on modern America; I just think they would find fireworks in particular terror-inducing. They would think the sky was falling, that the heavens were being wrenched open. Maybe they would even think it was the Second Coming, I don't know. But really, fireworks are weird when you think about it.
Last month when I did my first Anabaptist Theology Thursday, I didn't stay on topic too well. I wrote about pacifism, but I also ended up talking about my love for the Lord's Prayer and Thy will be done and all that. Today, I want to talk about forgiveness. Keep in mind, my understanding of Anabaptist theology is flawed because I'm not Anabaptist (and as such, am still relatively new to its intricacies), but this is my understanding of forgiveness in the Anabaptist sense: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
The criticism I usually hear about forgiveness is that forgiving someone is like saying what they did is okay, or that forgiveness is somehow a pardon. It's not. A murderer should still be imprisoned, because he's a danger to society. We can't control what happens to us in this world. All we have control over are our own actions. We have the power to forgive, and it truly is a power. To forgive is to let go of feelings of hate and anger. It frees up space within our hearts to mourn what has happened, to grieve those we have lost, and to heal. Without forgiveness, we cannot move on.
Forgiveness is healthy. Forgiveness is as much for us as it is for those we forgive. It allows God to move into the broken pieces of our hearts and to bind them back together so we are even stronger than before. It humbles us, because it forces us to admit our helplessness in this world. When we have been wronged, forgiveness really is the most powerful thing we possess, because it frees us from hate. It opens us back up to love and to God. It is a chance for us to share the awe-inspiring grace that is given to us by God. How can we not share that?
I struggle with forgiveness. On a spiritual level, I want to forgive. But on a daily basis, I mess up, I hold grudges, I sit in anger or annoyance or mistrust. I doubt people's ability to change, and I would often rather close myself off to others than let them into my heart, because I don't want to risk being hurt again. But then the Lord's Prayer walks into my life as it always seems to at the most perfect moments, and if I am open, and I try to be, I let it move me to forgive. It is a process. It is a journey. It is all a part of this strange and beautiful and wondrous life. Lord, help me to forgive.
Peace be with you.