If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? John 20:23 (MSG)
A Miracle That Happens on the Way – The Practice Series – Part 5
Forgiveness is not so much something that we do, but a spiritual practice we embrace. It’s an awkward, challenging, difficult practice, but one that brings healing like nothing else can.
What about justice?
How do I know when I’ve forgiven?
But I’m still angry?
Does it mean that the person/organisation/institution gets off scot-free?
What about what's owed me?
What about my damage?
Yep, forgiveness can be complicated.
If you’ve ever been deeply wronged and abused, used and neglected, you know that forgiveness isn’t the easy gift that's talked about on Sunday mornings in our sanitized, shiny churches. It’s hard, painful, and often initially (and then some) bitter.
After Jesus had died and then resurrected, he met with his disciples in a house. John tells us that he breathed on them and said: “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
In Ancient Hebrew, the word for Spirit and Breath are the same: ruach. It means “air in motion.” They believed that the spirit of God and the breath you’re taking are one and the same: life force, energy, essence, spirit, breath.
When Jesus spoke to his disciples together collectively for the first time after his resurrection, and breathed into them – and yep, that’s what the text says he did (and also, shout out to yesterday's devotion…) – he could have spoken about anything: judgement, kindness, hope, mercy, faith, doctrine, truth…
But he talked about forgiveness.
If the savior of the world, the Divine in human form, took three days to rise, then I think us mere mortals need to give ourselves time for the rising, too.
Forgiveness is a work, a grace, a miracle that happens on the way. It’s a practice that we…. well, practice.
It doesn’t excuse or exclude our pain; it includes it. It holds your pain and honors it, then works to let it go. That's the practice. And the marks left behind? Jesus still had his scars when he rose. He showed them to Thomas that day in the house, who perhaps was not so much doubting as he was grieving; as he was unwilling to forgive the Saviour who went AWOL, and the people who killed him. Jesus kept his scars, the truth of what happened to him, the truth of how he healed; his testimony and physical witness of forgiveness.
Resurrection is not so much death conquered as it is death forgiven.
Forgiveness is both completely exciting and utterly terrifying. Exciting and hopeful cos I want it. Terrifying and hard and even a little offensive because it means I need to practice it.
And sure. I can do that for small sins and trespasses and hurts; I’m a good person like that *wink*.
But those who have genuinely hurt me? To those hurting others in our world? The unseen and untold tragedies and abuses? The wars and damage and violence? The manipulation and greed?
How do you forgive that?
It’s in the breath. It’s in Jesus showing us what kind of miracles can take place when the air in motion – our living and breathing and practice – is laced with forgiveness.
In his book, “No Future Without Forgiveness”, Desmond Tutu said:
“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are [Jesus scars…]. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing.”