Tag Archives: forgiveness

Forgiveness

When I was a Hospice Chaplain, I was trained to use this list of  5 phrases to help patients deal  with end of life issues,  They are:  (1) “I forgive you”…(2) “Please forgive me”….  (3) “Thank you”….  (4) “I love you”….   (5)  “Goodbye”  The first two are the most important in my experience.   Many times I have seen patients who “hang on to life” and suffer until issues involving them are worked out.

As I am approaching end of life I am paying attention to all of them and feel that I have accomplished most of them.

I’m passing them on to you for two reasons:   (1)  You don’t have to wait until a terminal illness to be aware of the importance of these things in your relationship with loved ones.   If you or a loved one dies suddenly  due to an accident you will not have a chance to express them and deal with them—-so do it now.   (2) Because I feel the first two that deal with forgiveness  are extremely important for everyone.

Forgiveness is the foundation of all relationships.   Without love and the forgiveness that grows out of it enduring  relationships with God or with our fellow human beings is impossible. If we do not feel that God forgives us we cannot forgive ourselves, and if we cannot forgive ourselves it it is impossible to forgive others.

Both Old and New Testaments from Genesis to Revelation are narratives of God’s forgiveness.  Adam and Eve are guilty of eating the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God told them they would die for doing.   Yet God, while driving them out of the Garden did not kill them but fashioned clothes to cover their nakedness.   Even Cain, who killed his brother Abel was protected from being slain wherever he went by the “mark of Cain.”  In Revelation the last and final words are that God will create a new heaven and earth and that sorrow and suffering and death shall be no more and in this new Jerusalem where God rules “they will be my people and I will be their God.”  Both Jeremiah and Isaiah contain similar prophetic  words.  (read Jeremiah 31.)

God is a God of love who seeks relationship with God’s creation.   God’s actions prove that to do so there must be forgiveness.    Without  God’s forgiveness for all of us who are broken and lost, there would be no relationship.

If you truly believe God forgives us for the many times when we have done the wrong thing instead of the right thing; that we have hurt rather than healed; that we have lied rather than told the truth; that we have been selfish rather than caring; that we have disregarded our neighbor rather than loved our neighbor; that we have held a grudge instead of forgiving those who hurt us.    If God can forgive you with all the thing only you know about and still love you—-then you can forgive yourself and then be able to forgive others who have hurt you and restore relationships that have turned sour because of grudges held.

Read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.  The son hurt his father deeply when he collected what would be his inheritance before his father died and spent it foolishly.   When the son came back in rags planning to beg to be his father’s hired hand he was welcomed by his father with a new robe and with a feast and dancing after his father ran out onto the road and greeted him with open arms as he was returning home,  This is a picture of what God’s forgiveness is like, Jesus told his disciples.

Part of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples was:   “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.    Forgiveness is important.    Ask yourself if there is someone you need to ask for forgiveness or that you hold a grudge against and needs to hear your forgiveness.  Don’t wait—tomorrow may be too late!!

 

 

 

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Mercy or Retribution?

It’s true!   People do some terrible things to each other.   Many of us have been harmed by words and actions of others.  Words can assault us and injure us as much as physical blows and others actions may cause harm or death to our loved ones.  Those who harm us are often the victims of our  hatred, our wrath and our retribution. .  We ourselves often strike out  with words that hurt towards those we love, even if they are short of actual body blows!   We want to get even. We want Retribution!

If we are hurt we want to hurt back as much or more as we are hurt.   When we or a loved one are hurt, the adrenalin hits our bodies and prepares us for “fight or flight”.  Our blood pressure goes up.  Our breathing increases.  Our heart rate increases.  and the desire for retribution is very strong!   And yet as Christians we are faced with a problem.   Jesus taught his disciples that we should  forgive and not get even. That we should “love God and our neighbor as ourselves, and makes he makes it very clear by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan immediately after that teaching that our neighbor may be someone we hate and has treated us badly and hates us also.   Loving God  and hating our neighbor is therefore not an option according to Jesus.  If we follow what is often called the Great Commandment  to love God and neighbor (because it sums up all “the law and the prophets” including the Ten Commandments) then  love and forgiveness is the only option for a follower of Christ.   It is a simple but difficult command.

And how do we go about loving God anyway?    Love is relational.   We can say  “I love you God”—but how do we show our love to God in action?   Love is an action word!   Again we go to the great commandment and find out we show our love for God by loving our neighbor no matter how much he or she has hurt us!   That’s tough!   But we are commanded to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves!   Even tougher!  If we are to show our love for God in a concrete way the choice between retribution or forgiveness, mercy or getting even, is obvious.  The choice is love and mercy and forgiveness.

In my Sunday School Class we have been studying the Beatitudes. We have been aided in our  learning by a book written about Mother Teresa and the Beatitudes.   You guessed it!   I have to teach the class about the beatitude “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” this coming Sunday.

As you know, Mother Teresa and her sisters worked in the worst part of Calcutta in India.   They opened a House for the Dying among other things they did there.     People were dying in filth and squalor covered with their own feces on the streets of Calcutta every day. At first she borrowed a wheelbarrow to get them to the house where they could be cared for and loved and cleaned up and as she put it “at least die a human death”.   She viewed what she did as following this Beatitude “Blessed are the merciful” and as showing her love for God by showing love and care to those who were dying alone, in their own feces, on the streets of Calcutta.  According to Mother Teresa you show love to God by loving God’s children—and that includes what Mother Teresa called “the least of these.”

She took to heart the Parable of the Last Judgment in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 35-40,  where Jesus is assuming the personhood of those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, suffering, in prison, etc.   To those who reached out to him in God’s love he says “You did it to me”.

Listen to Mother Teresa’s own words:   “Whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you do it to me.”  (Matt. 25:40)   “If in my name , you give a glass of water, you give it to me.  If in my name, you receive a child, you receive me.  (Mark 9:37)   He has made that a condition also, that at the hour of death we are going to be judged on what we have been and what we have done.   He (Jesus) makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the sick one, the lonely one, the unwanted one, the rejected one.

He says “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.”  Not only for bread, I was hungry for love.  “I was naked” not only for a piece of cloth, but I was naked for that human dignity of a child of God .  “I  was homeless”  not only for a home made of brick, but I was homeless, rejected, unwanted, unloved, a throw-away of society, and you did it to me”.  (end of quote)

Mercy is what you show when you don’t have to!   Mercy is unearned.  Mercy is forgiveness and love and care when you don’t deserve it.   Richard Rohr says “you don’t know what mercy really is until YOU need it.   God shows you mercy every day as God forgives for the many actions we take that drag the name of Jesus in the mud.   God loves us even as unloving and unlovely as we can be.   God shows us mercy and God’s love  in that forgiveness.  God does not demand retribution.  And as we follow Jesus and  forgive others who hurt us and do not practice retribution against our neighbors we become capable of receiving God’s mercy.   It is as simple and as difficult as that.   “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”    Amen.