Kyle C. Bisceglie
The Sermon on the Mount tells us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) We do this because “if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (5:14) Likewise, we hear: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” (7:1) A tall order easily applied to petty slights and hurt feelings of human relations. Inspect your own house first before judging or condemning another’s. Consider if the “speck” we see in another’s eye isn’t the “log” in our own; earnestly pray for our enemies’ salvation; and ultimately offer forgiveness.
Does such instruction apply equally when confronting oppression, aggression or evil? It’s a start. Gandhi tells us “there have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.” That’s reassuring, but sometimes bullies, sociopaths, and tyrants need a push too. Honest introspection about their own fallibility likely served Dr. King, Gandhi, and Mandela, but so did organized marches. Our honesty and forgiveness are not always the problem.
A mindful Christian may defer forgiveness: “To every thing there is a season” including “a time to kill, and a time to heal.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3) Christians must discern right and wrong, and defend humanity under moral law. Introspection has a role; so does action. The Union purged the great stain of slavery only by Grant’s destruction of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Sherman’s Savannah Campaign. The Allies cured the war-bent Germany of Bismarck, Wilhelm and Hitler only through the death of more than 6 million Germans. Hiroshima and Nagasaki foreclosed a repeat of Pearl Harbor and Nanking. It was darkest before the dawn and daybreak brought freedom and forgiveness.
Could there be dawn without terrible night? Would there be light on Earth with only self-honesty and introspection? Forgiveness ends hostilities and heals. But when is it time to forgive?
Friends and members of our Christ Church family have prepared these daily reflections as a means for you to consider how forgiveness informs your faith walk during this holy season. They are a richly diverse group from many different geographies around our nation and globe, formed by a wide variety of traditions.