-It is so hard isn’t it? - forgiveness, I mean. I think sometimes (not often!) that it is easier to forgive a person for what they may have done to me, than for what they may have done to someone I love.
If someone raped one of my daughters or hurt Sheila in some way, I would want my pound of flesh - but if they hurt me, I guess I might be able to get over it easier; but even then it might depend on what it was they had done.
-If a person had robbed me, or taken my car and trashed it, (it’s not worth much anyway), I could get over that fairly easily, I think; but if they had broken all my fingers so that I couldn’t ever play the guitar or piano again - then the would be harder to forgive.
-But Jesus doesn’t really give us much wriggle room, does he? ‘Forgive your brother seventy times seven.’ In other words, an infinite number of times. How much simpler we make it for ourselves by saying, ‘God may forgive you - but I don’t.’ Unfortunately, we don’t get that option, and, hard as it is, we have to mean our forgiveness, or else it doesn’t mean a damn thing.
-Whilst I was dwelling on this meandering, it struck me how difficult it is - even harder, perhaps - to receive forgiveness sometimes.
-I remember two films in which the story was rather similar; one was ‘The Railway Man’ with Colin Firth playing a man who had been in a Japanese PoW camp and subjected to all sorts of torture and abuse. After the war he meets up with his torturer, and - long story short - eventually forgives him. The ex-PoW guard finds the forgiveness harder to take than his erstwhile prisoner’s anger and hate. The other film starred David Bowie - also as a British soldier in a Japanese PoW camp, who defuses a tense moment in a roll call that is likely to end up in a beheading by walking up to the Japanese officer in charge and kissing him. This is just too much loss of face for the officer. I won’t spoil the movie for you if you haven’t seen it; it is called, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence.’
-Why it should be two such similar stories, I don’t know. Perhaps there were those moments, and Japanese people even today hate to lose face. Perhaps it is more honourable to be hated than forgiven, acceptance of which would be seen as weakness.
-I wonder if Jesus’ Roman guards drove the nails in with more spite when they heard his words, ‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.’
-I think we find it hard to accept forgiveness because we don’t feel worthy of it; we don’t feel we’ve earned it. We haven’t made amends, so how can we be forgiven? I guess if we took that to its logical conclusion, then Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would have been a monumental waste of excruciating suffering for nothing. We need to understand that we will never be worthy in our own merit to accept the grace of God’s gift of forgiveness; but if we turn it down, we continue to allow Jesus’ suffering to be pointless. How much more can we wound him by rejecting his gift of grace and forgiveness?
-During this Advent season it is worth us taking the time to consider what the offer of God is in the Incarnation of Christ. Its culmination on the cross of Easter, and his resurrection will be made worthless if you refuse his forgiveness. So swallow your pride and resentment, and when you come to the altar rail next, remember what it is that you are accepting; not just the elements of his body and blood, but his forgiveness, which is his expression of Love.