Friday, 12 September 2014

Forgive? – What does that mean?


The lectionary readings for the coming Sunday are based around the idea of forgiveness. The gospel story is a strange one. The story is couched in extremes, done deliberately so in order to emphasise the main points. It is the story of the unforgiving servant…. The story goes: A man had many servants. The main servant owed his Master a huge amount of money (in our translations sometimes written as millions of pounds). Perhaps the servant was in our vocabulary an accountant? Who knows, the story does not go into detail. The Master asks for a statement of account, at which point the shortfall becomes obvious. The servant asks for forgiveness and the Master cancel his debt, the forgiven servant in a reversal of roles then refuses to offer the same charity to someone who owes him a much smaller amount. The purpose of the story is clear. We have ourselves been forgiven, but to be part of the narrative of the Kingdom of God, we must do the same – “freely you have received, freely give”.

 
But it’s not as simple as you may think.

 
This week saw the anniversary of 9/11 (I wonder if you can remember where you were when you heard? I was carry out a funeral visit to the family of a friend of mine who had committed suicide by setting fire to himself). It was on the anniversary that President Obama committed himself to the “destruction of Isis” (The self-proclaimed Islamic State).  I attended a clergy meeting the same day. One of my colleagues was suggesting that without the 9/11 attacks, there may well have been no invasion of Iraq, or Afghanistan, the Arab spring may well have been different and without the vacuum of power left, no Isis to roll across Syria and Iraq carrying out horrendous cruelties as they move. So actions may have profound consequences beyond our ken.

 
What would the Christian response be to this? What was the response to the rise of Nazism? To ignore and turn the other cheek? Forgiveness requires one (at least) of the parties to acknowledge that a wrong has been committed, and attempts to make things right . The problem with our world at the moment is that no-one is prepared to acknowledge any wrong, only to assert their own rights, often in the name of religion.

 

Around the world Christians wear bracelets with the letters WWJD? Written on them. It is a reminder to us all when faced with any dilemma to ask the question – If He were here, What Would Jesus Do”?  

 

Its one thing to ask the question, but yet another I would suggest to carry the answer through.

 

Take Care

 

Alan

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