Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness’

New and Unimagined

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

One of the harder challenges I struggle with might just be this…

Accepting that the spiritual endeavor towards freedom is to free both captive and captor.

The journey. in ways painfully hard to articulate, frees both “us” and “them”, captive and captor.

I recently reading a book on Martin Luther King Jr., and, unbeknownst to me, he nearly died in 1958 when he was stabbed in New York City by Izola Curry.  A photo from that day shows the knife still protruding from his chest…


Hard to imagine.  And his response to the unprovoked attack was forgiveness, communicating to others his desire to not press charges.

The scars healed from the delicate surgery that saved his life that day.  Healed – and this brings a smile – in the form of a cross on his chest.

King took Christianity seriously, not piously or righteously.  He took it as a humbling model of self-giving love, not as a way to judge or condemn.

He saw in it a lived way, new and unimagined, to set both captive and captor free.

How do we empower ourselves? A surprising answer….

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018
There is always this question about empowerment. How do we become empowered human beings?
I love Sam Wells’ surprising answer.
We empower ourselves when we come to see ourselves as “a sinner who can be forgiven, rather than a victim who can protest.”
What a surprise!
Follow the surprise …. In your most treasured relationship, how well does it work to see yourself as a victim limited to protest?  Versus the flip… in your most treasured relationship, how well does it work to see yourself as human being, warts and all, in need of forgiveness, in need of grace, in need of kindness?
I would argue, when we place ourselves in the role of flawed humanity … blessed and broken… we place ourselves closer to our true selves and closer to God.   We become, in a word, empowered.  The edges soften and the heart grows.
A stark choice maybe. A marriage of two individuals who each clutch tightly to playing the victim role has neither joy nor a future.  A marriage of two individuals who correctly see themselves as flawed human beings has embedded deeply within the relationship the lasting seeds of joy and of a future.

Forgiveness? Las Vegas?

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

We awoke today to the heart breaking news around Las Vegas. Tragic. Senseless.

It is hard to hold.

And how does forgiveness fit in? How can we start on that path when an event so raw and unnerving leaves us reeling?

The answer simply is that I don’t know.

I imagine however, from a Christian perspective, the best we can do starts small with grieving the loss. Moves to helping in the ways we feel God is calling us to help. And connecting as best we can with those we love … a reminder of the deep preciousness of life.

As Christians, our God is not a God of vengeance. Our God is a God who faces the very worse of humanity, as seen in the story of Easter crucifixion, with the fragility we can so readily connect with at times like these, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” as well the very best of God-given depth we can connect with captured in these words, “God forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Both doubt and forgiveness, part of the Easter crucifixion story.

Doubt and forgiveness, part of our story too.

And as Anne Lamott so poignantly reminds us, that despite all the darkness in the world, grace will always bat last.

That I know to be true.


Forgiveness: A Guest Blog By Chris Dunn

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

On Forgiveness________

I’ve often contemplated Alexander Pope’s quote, “to err is human, to forgive: divine.” What an authentic description of the often raw, tragic and beautiful state of our relationships. “To err” really is human, and if you’re like me, it happens more than you’d like to admit. Yet in our shortcomings we are called to a deeper, more profound place: forgiveness. This isn’t just about forgiving the sins of others, but forgiving ourselves as well. That’s divine. That is the way.

I met Holocaust survivor Eva Kor several times, only after her story of radical forgiveness transformed me. There was a chapter of my life marred by intense pain, darkness and disdain for others who wronged me. Each day that went by was another opportunity to crawl deeper into the abyss, further down the hole. And then on one particular morning, my life changed forever. Through a church sermon I learned that there was a path out of this despair, and directly towards healing. That pastor recalled the life of a Holocaust survivor that decided to forgive the Nazis, thus breaking free from the agonizing shackles of victimhood. This was my clarion call.


Desmond Tutu once said that “until we can forgive the person who has harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness.” This has nothing to do with the other individual(s), and everything to do with ourselves. Perhaps the most essential aspect of that choice is its holiness. Absolutely no one can take away your freedom to forgive. To heal. That is a sacred gift you always possess. Divine.

If you’re struggling to either forgive another or forgive yourself, I want you to know that you’re not alone. That pain is woven into the fabric of the human experience. Yet there is a way to move forward. There is hope. It starts with a simple willingness to shed that pain, followed by the acceptance that in forgiving we take back control of our lives.

Here is the link to view Eva’s testimony on radical forgiveness.


One Big Warning, Often Missed….

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

I remember years ago, in elementary school years, a pastor posing the question, “What is the unforgivable sin?”  Pretty heady talk right.  The question was not posed in a mean way.  Nothing scolding about it.  Just a question from a kind pastor.

After fielding a series of flubbing answers from the kids, the pastor noted one sin.  One unforgivable sin.  That sin … “speaking against the Holy Spirit.”  And it is there, clearly listed in the Gospel of Matthew.

Now of course we can read those lines in Matthew as agreeable, reading it with the righteous scorn of a fundamentalist more interested in pointing out God’s wrath than God’s mercy and applaud the rectitude of it all. Or we can take the time ask, what is the warning here?

And here is the warning.  And it is a big one.  Often missed…

Jesus knew their [the priests] thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  (Matt. 12:25-32)

The warning starts here…

It begins with who Christ is addressing.  And that group was the clergy at that time in that place.  Religious professionals.  The righteous. The pious.  The pure.  Who most often got it wrong.

And then what Christ is addressing.   What Christ is addressing is their accusation that he is able to heal because his power was demonic – the reference to “Beelzebul.” Not from God.  Allied instead with the devil.

And finally how Christ answers their accusation.  Here … BEAUTIFUL theology.  When Christ responds “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”, he is saying this.  ”You can speak out against me.  That is forgiven.  But you can’t speak against the spirit of healing that frees others.  That is not forgivable.”

And it isn’t.  Not because God can’t forgive it because God does forgive it.  But because we deeply wound our spirits when we cynically pull into doubt the whole spirit of healing.  Rake that spirit, tear it apart in others and its miraculous work, and we rapidly pull ourselves away from the healing spirit that can heal our lives.  Punished by that sin, not for that sin. In that sense … unforgiven.

So that healing spirit – the Holy Spirit – will move where it will.  As Christ notes, it moves like the wind. Our job is not to judge it and its gentle work of healing as it winds around lives and lives of others. Our job – to celebrate it.


When Faith Becomes A Weapon: Terrorism in Paris

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Faith and religion, at there best, represent incredible forces towards healing, mercy, kindness … the better angels of our nature.  And at times faith and religion represent the exact opposite as they did in Paris yesterday with the killing of 12 individuals who worked for the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, a killing carried out by Islamic terrorists.

Religiously fueled terrorism of this sort is especially depraved.  It grows out of a mindset anchored in a view of God as wrathful, angry, vindictive … clothing God then in our depravities.  The frightening nature of these attacks however may stem mostly from the fact that they can be perpetrated guilt free.  A crazy, transparently false line of reasoning may go, “If God calls for, sanctions and blesses such an attack, who am I to feel guilty carrying it out?”

What then is the answer?  What do we do when faith becomes a weapon?

For some, this attack yet again reinforces the dangers of religion as a whole, a thought which gives rise to much of the militant atheism in Western culture.  And that is understandable in a sense if all one knows of religion are these attacks.

Important to note however that some of the worse of modern day demagogues clearly rejected religion.  Hitler, Stalin and Mao …. all saw religion as weak.   All worked to eliminate it from their nations.  Each killed millions. Hitler repeatedly noted that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science, which in the long run could not “co-exist with religion.”  While he did reference Christianity, no doubt playing to political concerns, it is hard to imagine he held any sincere Christian beliefs given his virulent anti-semitism.

So what then is the answer?

To do what Christians are called to do.

To stand for peace.  To “bind the wounds” of the broken.   And importantly, to pray.  And that prayer is for the healing of those hurt. For the grieving families of those who have lost loved ones.  For the trauma of a nation.  And that prayer is even for the terrorists themselves, as hard and as misaligned as that may appear.

Three prayers in Christianity – The Lord’s Prayer/ The Our Father – the Oneness prayer in John – and Christ’s Prayer of Forgiveness of the Cross.  All call on us to pray for healing.

  • “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
  • “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
  • “Father forgive them for know not what they do.”

That does not erase the need for accountability.  These attacks must be confronted and denounced, facing the darkness in the human heart, wherever it may reside.

And the spirit of that confrontation must return us yet again to the better angels of our nature.