For the past 14 months, I have been reading and teaching from a little book called "The Journey". It is not a common writing. It is not found in any of your major book stores. And there are several places in the book that I have found grammatical errors. Normally, I would have laid this book down to never return to it, when I found the second grammatical error. However, it was given to me by a friend who asked me to teach a series of lessons from it for a weekend School of Christian Mission. So, tossing it into the pile of poorly edited rags in my basement was not an option.
So, as a result I began this Journey of reexamining forgiveness, restorative justice and reconciliation. For the first time in my life, I began to really look at forgiveness. And what I have discovered during this journey is soul stirring and heart wrenching. I have discovered that forgiveness is not a single act, but a process. I have discovered that too often we erroneously teach people that granting forgiveness also releases them from being accountable for their actions. I have discovered that forgiveness is not an act for the other, but is really about releasing the victim from the bondage of hatred, anger and hurt. I have discovered that you can go over forgiveness in a 4 hour session, but to really teach it, you need months of discussion, thought, reteaching, pushing, crying, and praying. But, more than any of these, I have discovered that God forgives us a lot quicker than we forgive ourselves.
Too often we live with the guilt and pain of our past acts long after the victim of our sin and the God of our forgiveness has moved past it. I am not sure why we do this, but I see the scars of this too often in our churches and on our people. We sit wrapped in the quilt of our own guiltiness in a way that is often unhealthy and unnecessary. I don't know how to explain this. I don't know how to teach people out of this. And, if I were being totally honest, I would admit that I don't know how to escape this state of existence, either. Some time ago, a friend suggested that this is indicative of one's inability to fully accept and appreciate God's forgiveness. I hope that is not true. This friend went on to suggest that we don't fully forgive ourselves because we don't really know how to forgive others. I don't think she was right. I really don't know why we punish ourselves in this way. What I do know is that this "thing" robs us of our lives and of our happiness. And, that is not what God would have for us.
Forgive others. Accept God's forgiveness. Seek the forgiveness of those you have offended or hurt. Forgive yourself and seek to live the life that God has for you. And, when you have done all of this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul; and your neighbors as yourself.