Jesus Creed 23 – Forgiving in Jesus

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord you God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.

This is a series of reflections on Scot McKnight’s book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. It’s a book I unequivocally recommend for anyone. Each chapter opens with recommended Gospel readings. The readings for this chapter are: Matthew 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35.

For me ‘forgiveness‘ is something of a scary thing. I know that may sound odd, but I can think of no better way to express it. In fact, I’m often unsure why others don’t seem to recognize that this ‘forgiveness‘ thing is pretty scary stuff.

There are multiple perspectives to consider.

Forgiveness, in the Old Testament, is a ‘God thing’ and a ‘repentance thing.

In other words, God (and pretty much only God) does it and it requires repentance first. Scot describes this as the standard view of Judaism.

Christianity stands that on its head.

A brief summary of each: First, Jesus innovates in his world when he urges his followers to have a disposition of forgiveness rather than of strict justice. Second, so important is forgiveness to Jesus that forgiving others is a litmus test of whether or not one is a follower of Jesus. Third, forgiving others knows no limit for Jesus’ followers. Fourth, forgiving others is effective in his society of followers. The ultimate observation we make is that Jesus is the example: On the cross Jesus looks to those who are crucifying him and forgives them.

What Jesus says about forgiveness is rooted in the Jesus Creed: God loves us, so we are to love others and to love God. Loving others means forgiving them. Put succinctly, the Jesus Creed manifests itself in gracious, preemptive strikes of forgiveness.

We should do that more often. If we follow the Jesus Creed, we will not only ask God to forgive us, but we will forgive others. Preemptively. That is, before they have repented or asked for forgiveness.

I remember the first time I ever heard about the Orthodox service of Forgiveness Vespers. It was in Molly Sabourin’s Close to Home podcast titled simply Forgiveness. (Take a moment to click the link and listen to the podcast. It’s well worth the time.) I must have listened to it at least three times in succession and I’ve listened to it multiple times since. I immediately recognized it’s beauty and uniquely Christian quality.

I have not attended one. Forgiveness is simultaneously threatening and incredibly attractive to me. Forgiveness Vespers captures, I think, the way I desire reality to be. I’m just not sure I trust that it actually does describe reality.

Lord have mercy.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m puzzled about describing forgiveness as scary. That’s a description that wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

    “Difficult” is my adjective of choice for when forgiveness is a struggle.

    The easiest thing for me is to remember what a sinful person I can be. If I do that, when I get to the “forgive as we forgive” part of my nightly prayers, it’s such a relief if someone has wronged me and I have something to forgive. 🙂

    Take care & God bless
    Anne

  2. Posted October 10, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    I thought it might have an odd sound to some, but I believe it’s more accurate in general than I had in mind when I wrote it. After, what is one reason that we all refuse to relinquish our claim to the “debt” another owes us? There is always some fear, I think, that if we do not keep those accounts, nobody will. There is a fear that things will not be made right and, perhaps, that they will “get away with it” whatever “it” might be.

    But to be honest, that thought did not occur to me until I was writing this comment and wasn’t what I had in mind when I wrote the post. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything I could add without saying more than I care to say. But I daresay there are some who read what I wrote and will understand instantly why forgiveness can be a frightening thing.

  3. Posted October 11, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    While I can put myself in your shoes and imagine that, I’ve always kind of taken it for granted that many grievances will never be redressed, that it would be just my luck that some murderer would be in heaven while I wasn’t. So I don’t come to the table with that particular thought in my head.

    The part that’s difficult for me is that, whenever I go to forgive someone — even in prayer — I’m faced with the temptation to rehash the grievance and relive the harm, and wind up angrier than before. That’s why for me it’s more of a difficult thing. Takes a huge amount of determination and effort, for me. (Depending on the size of the harm done, I suppose.)

    Take care & God bless
    Anne

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