Power of Forgiveness

exploring the power and nature of forgiveness

Essays on Forgiveness

  • Reflections on Forgiveness in the Wake of Charleston

    “You took something precious away from me . . . I will never talk to her again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me and you hurt a lot of people. But I forgive you.” The gracious words from the daughter of Ethel Lance to Lance’s murderer, Dylann Roof, are enough to make one gasp in awe, or perhaps even horror. Roof stood motionless in a video bail hearing as family members of his victims addressed him. “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible Study with open arms,” Felicia Sanders, mother of 26-year-old Tywanzaa Sanders, reminded Roof;”You have killed some of the beautifullest people that I know. Every fiber...

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  • Accepting God’s Forgiveness for Our Racism

      Some of the Pharisees near him said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’  your sin remains.  –John 9:40-41  Those of us who are white Christians in America need to accept God’s forgiveness for the persistent racism of our dominant culture and for our collusion and participation in its destructive and devastating impact on countless human lives and whole generations of people.  As a pastor, I believe that the church is particularly situated to take the lead in this process of transformation within our society.  Recognizing that God’s for-giveness is the gracious, unilateral power that removes seemingly immovable obstacles, that  lifts crushing...

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  • Forgiving Place

    “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man  has nowhere to lay his head.” –Luke 9:58  Jesus demonstrates the remarkable capacity to be “at home” everywhere.  It is a defining characteristic of his ministry.  Jesus’  practice of forgiveness is  manifested in an openness and availability to all  people and to the various contexts where he meets them. Let’s follow this dynamic in Luke Chapter 9.  As the narrative begins, Jesus is gathering the Twelve together, empowering them and sending them out to proclaim the Realm of God and to heal.  This is the first time they will travel on their own, though not without resource:  he grants each of them the authority that is his.  Simultaneously,  he instructs...

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  • A Way of Being

    Let me suggest that we consider forgiveness as a “way of being:'”  being with one another; being with the world; and being with ourselves. Such a way necessarily (1) impacts our ability to enter into the experiences of others (2) empowers us to offer hospitality and receive the “other” gratefully (3) equips us to make space together for authentic relationship, even in previously unfamiliar territory. The poetry of Hafiz may stimulate our imaginations in this regard.  As a way of being, forgiveness does not need to reduce the humanity of the other in order to “know” them, but instead offers interactive possibilities that can be unbinding for everyone involved. When we examine the practice of forgiveness in the context of injury (most often compounded injury),...

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  • What God Joins Together

    “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What God has joined together, let no one separate.” — Matthew 19:6 Freedom is essential to covenant; it is indispensable to the truth of love.   The familiar words, “What God has joined together ” are often invoked at weddings.  They are drawn from the 19th chapter of Matthew’s gospel.  Is their message one of freedom or bondage?    That depends on our translation. The discussion described in Matthew 19 is initially framed in the context of divorce.  Pharisees approach Jesus with a question: “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”  The short answer, of course, would be yes (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  But Jesus engages the freedom not to be bound by the narrowness...

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  • “Impossible” Forgiveness

    “I knew that if I defined Conor by that one moment–as a murderer–I was defining my daughter as a murder victim.  And I could not allow that to happen.”  –Kate Grosmaire, mother of Ann In March 2010, a young man from Tallahassee, Florida, Conor McBride, shot his girlfriend Ann Grosmaire in the head.    Both were 19-years-old at the time, and had been a couple for three years. A fight that reportedly lasted two days and nights culminated in Conor taking his father’s gun and shooting Ann as she was on her knees.  She died four days later when she was removed from life support. Their families, friends, and the surrounding community were left stunned and broken. A New York Times Magazine article published this...

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  • Forgiveness and 9/11

    The message, “After Darkness . . .Light,” is inscribed on the plaque next to the pool of reflection, where twin fountains of water rise upward from squares representing the footprints of the World Trade Center towers.  The 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection in Lower Makefield, Pa, is a beautiful, deeply moving experience for people who enter.  It has been constructed with loving care.  The names of all 2973 victims of the terrorist attacks are inscribed on glass.  People leave flowers, pictures, and other expressions of love and tribute.  The names of the seventeen Bucks County residents who were lost, including nine from Lower Makefield, are remembered on panels by the reflection pool. The garden is planted with maple and redbud trees in their honor.  People come...

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  • Intercessor

    “Jesus answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, great is your faith!”  –Matthew 15:26-28, NRSV The story of Jesus and the “Canaanite woman” resonated deeply as I prepared for a Peace Retreat that would address themes of diversity in the church, inclusion, and interfaith dialogue.  It reminded me of Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness following his baptism, a time of struggle and choice that clarified–in the flesh–what names like “Son” and “Beloved” would really mean. The Holy Spirit that led (even drove) Jesus into that wilderness seems to be moving again in Matthew 15, leading,...

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  • Access to God’s Reign, Wholeness in Our Human family

    “The spiritual gift of healing is not restricted to those in a specific economic category.”  –Dr. Harold Dean Trulear In my post earlier this week, “The Story Within the Story,” I reflected on Mark 5:21-43, the interwoven tales of healing for two “daughters” in God’s family, one the twelve year old child of the synagogue leader Jairus, the other  a previously marginalized, unnamed woman who had suffered a debilitating flow of blood for twelve years.  I focused particularly on the woman, how she suddenly becomes visible and in an act of faith draws power from Jesus, interrupting the established narrative and taking the entire story in a new direction. I marveled at her inspired access, her claim to a force for healing that would not...

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  • The Conspiracy of Goodness

    “How could the Nazis ever get to the end of the resources of such a people?” –Pastor Andre Trocme On a Saturday afternoon in late summer of 1942, police in Nazi- occupied France arrived in the southern French town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon with several empty buses.  They demanded that the pastor of the town’s French Reformed Church provide a list of the names of Jewish refugees and direct those people to the town hall for “registration.”  Pastor Andre Trocme refused, even when threatened with arrest.  His motivation was clear: “These people came here for help and for shelter. I am their shepherd.  A shepherd cannot forsake his flock.”  It was but one instance in what  those receiving refuge called “an extraordinary outburst of solidarity.” But...

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