As a subscriber to the wisdom that forgiveness is freedom, I forgive easily. Waste emotions over trivial things? No way! I guess I’ve been lucky…much of what I’ve needed to forgive has been trivial or included a heartfelt apology.
Until I was not so lucky. I mean, how do you easily forgive betrayals like cheating, especially, when the betrayer is unrepentant. Do you wait for the hurt to heal first? Hold back for a “well-deserved” apology? Forgive without repentance and risk looking foolish or weak? Or forgive wholeheartedly agreeing to put the betrayal behind you? As someone who fears looking foolish and weak, the prospect of unconditional forgiveness or reconciliation is not something that I happily welcome. To comprehend God’s stance on the matter, I turned to the Amish for one of the most impressive illustrations of God’s direction on forgiveness and grace.
After the 2006 West Nickel Mines School shooting that resulted in the death of five Amish girls, the grieving community not only forgave the dead shooter but surrounded his family with compassion and support as they struggled with their grief and loved one’s actions. The Amish attended his funeral and donated funds/goods to the family. In doing this, the Amish showed us that forgiveness was not a feeling, but a God-directed choice – a true act of grace. A beacon of God’s love towards his people – no matter who we are or our sins.
Am I inspired? You bet. Will unconditional forgiveness be easy? Not really. As one mother described 5 years later – “Making the choice and following through – it’s still going on. You get hit with a wave of grief, and you wonder why do I do this. You kind of have to process that whole thing again and put it back in the file cabinet and find it again.” Unconditional forgiveness is not about forgiving one time or seven, but seventy-seven times and perhaps even more.
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.