Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Whenever there is conflict and an impending church split, there is also a lot of dialogue about forgiveness and praying for one's enemy. I'm not saying that there are enemies in our situation, but that's often the language used.

What I have observed is that forgiveness often takes on the form of the passive acceptance I discussed yesterday. I don't think that's healthy, and I definitely don't believe that's what God had in mind when he discussed forgiveness. It's much more active. As many people say, forgiveness is not a feeling, it's a decision. There is absolute truth to that.

However, as I said that Christian often simplify our psychological states, forgiveness is not as simple as a decision. There are intense emotions involved, positive and negative, and they need to be addressed. Ev Worthington is a specialist in forgiveness research, particularly within Christianity (he's a Christian himself). One of the things he mentioned is that it can be damaging to the person to forgive too soon... or too late. There is a delicate balance and timing.

I would also argue (and I believe Worthington does too) that forgiveness does not coincide with forgetting. We can forgive someone, but we often should remember. It relates to the boundaries we discussed before. Forgiveness is separate from the other person changing and from reconciliation. We may forgive Hitler, but would we let him lead anything? I sure hope not.

Anger and pain can still arise in us as we forgive. Sometimes a person may re-injure us, or that process of reconciliation is uncompleted (sometimes it will never be complete). That is painful. And angering. What was done is wrong. When we remember it, it is appropriate and acceptable to be anger, as long as it is not all-consuming. But we have to have grace for ourselves, as this is a process.

So what does this mean as we pray for those who have hurt us and are told to hope for their success? That's tomorrow...

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