Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Forgiveness, a gift

(Reposted as it dropped out of the blog)

Forgiveness is a difficult thing for many people, especially when we have been deeply hurt by the actions or words of others. Is forgiveness dependent upon something else, that is does the ability or the need to forgive rely on something that someone else does first or is it a choice that the one forgiving makes irrespective of the situation - in effect a gift we give?

It seems to me that there are various ways of looking at this. Jesus tells us we need to repent of our sins and accept forgiveness so that we might be born again and travel the road of the disciple. There is Moses in the desert asking God to forgive the people and so not destroy them, the people having made merry the wrong way and worshipped other idols. Then there is Jesus telling Peter that forgiveness knows no limits in terms of repeated offense.

I have often heard folks say that you cannot forgive unless the offender recognises their fault and repents and asks forgiveness. While that may ring well with us and seems to tie up with salvation (If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins ...), since we are told to repent (turn from) our wrong doing and accept Gods forgiveness, is it always the case that we cannot forgive until recognition and a desire to apologise or put it right, occur?

On the cross Jesus asked God to forgive those responsible even though they were jeering at him or had washed their hands of responsibility. We are told in Colossians to forgive those we have a problem with so it would seem that we are to forgive unconditionally. God has already sorted out the price of our wrong doing via the cross, in doing so he offers forgiveness to all who will accept Christ and accept the need for forgiveness. The offer has been made to all regardless of them accepting it. It is in accepting God's gift that we are set free from the cost of our sin or wrong doing. Forgiveness is often seen in psychological circles as a release in the one forgiving from building up anger, resentment and such, in effect removing the chains that those actions or words have put onto us. So perhaps the point is that we offer forgiveness, and so set ourselves free from the impact of someone else's actions or words against us?

What if the person concerned does not think they have done anything wrong - after all those who called for Jesus' execution thought they were doing the right thing? Adding it all together I think we do well to forgive regardless of the state, understanding or response of the person or people concerned so that we harbour no grudge, bitterness or desire for retribution. In effect it is a gift we give. That does not mean we don't need to be careful or sensible about things like boundaries in such situations else we could just become the punch bag for someones anger or angst. It does mean that we forgive as we expect to be forgiven.

 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Light a flame

You would have to be in a complete state of isolation in the United Kingdom, not to have noticed something of the Olympic flames' 70 day hike around the country. Passing from hand to hand as each bearer takes up the flame and in turn passes it on to the next. Today and tomorrow its in Essex, where I live, and tomorrow we will all be up early to see the flame pass through Harlow.

Years back I recall a children's song we sang in church which has the words

Light a flame within my heart
That's burning bright
Fan the fire of joy in me
To set the world alight
Let my flame begin to spread
My life to glow
God of light may I reflect
Your love to all I know

Some of you will know that there is a praise bus going ahead of the flame, so that the good news of Jesus can be given out - That God loves us. When we are alight with the love of God, there is, at least in my experience, a burning desire to find ways to show that love to others.

As that love is shown then others, who may not have heard this wonderful truth, will hear it, see it, experience it and it might just touch them as it touched us. The truth will dawn and will set each one free. The fire spreads like that, heart to heart, each being lit by the Christ to become a part of his torch procession, a procession which will be lit always, a flame that is never extinguished.

Some of us in Harlow will be praying through the night tonight, my slot will focus on renewal - the renewal that comes for a deeper walk with Christ and so spills out into our churches, communities and country. A flame lit or re-lit in our hearts that will spread like wildfire and will go on past the time when the Olympics in London have long been forgotten.