Forgiveness – What if I don’t Want to?

The thing I truly dislike about being a practicing Christian (i.e. I keep practicing hoping I’ll nail it someday) is the necessity of forgiveness of others.

My disdain of forgiveness exists on two levels. First, I feel it’s really not my job to forgive someone who has hurt me because I feel that is something for which the person needs to ask him or herself. Or God. Just not me. Who the hell am I? Second, I when I tell someone “I forgive you,” I always want to add a little * that says:

*this forgiveness only valid for one-time use

Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn’t work that way, does it? We don’t get disclaimers and we don’t get to pass the buck. I’ve been forgiven many times and I was not forgiven with disclaimers or a lack of eye contact. I was forgiven personally, unconditionally, and fully.

But, what if I don’t want to forgive this?

This morning, when I woke up, it was my first thought. Someone did something horrible to me a few days ago and I agreed to meet him tonight to listen to what he wants to say. He feels awful and he knows he made a massive mistake. I understand that, but I am hurting. So, my question has followed me all day, and what if I want this to be the first time I look someone in the face and say, “I will never forgive you”? I would have every reason to do so. What will stop me?

Because I don’t want to just say I’m Christian. Anyone can say those words. Me? I want to do it, not just say it. I aim to make my final words as simple as, “Thank you for that crazy life, and I hope I made You proud.” There is nothing more important to me than replacing a tiny fraction of the darkness in this world with my sunshine.

And the people that hurt us? They do it because they have that darkness inside of them. I don’t hurt people all that often. Why? Because I have a ridiculously large surplus of sunshine. And compassion. Huge reserves of both. Makes me remember that fabulous line from Talladega Nights, “I piss excellence.” Me? I don’t like that word, but I certain weewee sunshine and compassion. You bet.

So, I am certain I will look him in the eyes tonight and share some of that sunshine and compassion with him.

I think Mark Twain said it beautifully…  forgiveness-mark-twain-quote

Politics and Church – what could go wrong? Not much. Just everything.

The worst threat to any denomination has always been “the church will fracture due to political maneuverings.” I find this a hollow fear.

A door may close. A program may be slashed. Real estate may be sold. As long as there is one creature that declares a loving God created and resides in his or her heart? The church is alive.

Oddly enough, the ones worried about the fracture are the same in political circles and religious ones – the liberals. The conservatives aren’t worrying about the fracture(s). They are too busy protecting their immediate needs.

Liberals worry about keeping families together and pointing faces toward the future. Conservative focus on defining their “version” of family and pointing fingers in faces.

Conservatives scream about how right and righteous they are. Liberals cower away from declaring themselves “right” or righteous.

Conservatives plot and liberals ponder. It’s always the same. In the end? Conservatives are nodding their heads and liberals are shaking theirs. It’s frustrating to watch.

And it’s painful to watch ugly, old politics come into the walls of sanctuaries. A sanctuary is no place for politics. So much can go wrong during that distraction.

Today’s sermon was a great sermon. Father Paul baptized me 35 years ago and those same big hands gave me communion today. Sure, they call him Bishop today, but I know that smile, those rosy cheeks, and those glittering eyes. He’s TOTALLY my Father Paul.

One thing he said today will stick with me for a long time. I’m paraphrasing the context, but wrote down the quote to be exact.

He talked to us about what exactly it means to receive baptism, confirmation, reception, etc. into the Christian body. He reminded us how important it is to take that grace we are given through the Great Thanksgiving and share it abundantly, unconditionally, and without regard to self. He said it was our duty to take that “into the troubled and broken world – a world that doesn’t have a chance without Him.”

I agree. That is exactly why the plots, schemes, fractures, tears, failures, exhausting and crippling disappointments have no place in God’s churches.

Love one another and within “love” should also be respect, treasure, adore, admire, listen to, comfort, embrace, accept. It’s the very least we can do with what we’ve been given. And we must. The world needs it and it “doesn’t have a chance without Him.”

Focus. The world doesn’t need you to define love. It needs you to show it.

Bishop Paul Lambert and I at Angry Dog (where we unabashedly said grace, by the way).
Bishop Paul Lambert and I at Angry Dog (where we unabashedly said grace, by the way)