John H. Cole
I am sure that to forgive another I must experience forgiveness. To do that, I must see how much I need forgiveness. When I am always “right” and you “wrong,” I have no need for the process. As I am still learning, living this way is simple but often joyless.
I am reminded of this when I do my weekly workshop combining Bible study and AA’s 12 steps at Anchor House our Methodist residential drug treatment program in Brooklyn. I always use David’s penitential Psalm 51 when we reach step four in the study. Step four states that in order to get clean and sober and stay that way, one must make a searching and fearless moral inventory, admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs, and be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. God, of course, knows what our issues are before we do; but we must be humble and honest enough to look at those dark parts of ourselves and ask for help. This is what David asks when the prophet confronts him by revealing his ego driven moves to take Bathsheba as his wife after killing her husband. Only when David gets to that point of embarrassed despair in his spiritual journey can he accept the mercy of forgiveness.
And this I believe is true for all of us. Once we can accept our need for forgiveness from a source beyond ourselves we are ready to forgive others. Allowing God to wash away my shortcomings is the only way forward for most of us in repairing broken relationships created when my ego is out of control. Active forgiving is best done by those who have received forgiveness. If we want the kind of personal transformation that only love can bring we must begin by daring to look deeply into our own hearts. God will help us do this if we are ready.
Create in me a clean heart O God…
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.