[This is a repost of something I wrote in February 2008. It kept attracting spam comments, so let’s see if re-locating it throws the spammers off the trail.]
Many psychologists emphasise the healing power of forgiveness. Professor Aaron Lazare, Dean of the University of Massachusetts medical school, however, has written a book called On Apology. As reported at the time in The Independent, 28/12/04, Lazare says that saying sorry has the power ‘to heal humiliations, free the mind from deep-seated guilt, remove the desire for vengeance, and restore broken relationships.…
By the time we reach chapter three of Philip Gulley’s book If the Church were more Christian, the procedure is becoming rather predictable: tell a story or two illustrating how bad ‘they’ (other Christians) are, and then tell a story or two showing how ‘we’ get it right. Throw in one or two references to the Bible (don’t take too much trouble about how you select, interpret, or apply them). Job done. Next chapter please.…
I’ve never yet met a person who didn’t think that forgiveness was a good thing. Peter certainly thought so. He just wanted to check what its limits might be. The rabbis said that one should forgive a person up to three times. Peter was prepared to more than double the figure: “Up to seven times, Master?” “Not seven, but seventy times seven,” says Jesus; meaning, of course, one should forgive his brother an unlimited number of times.…
According to N.T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God) “Forgiveness of sins is another way of saying ‘return from exile’”.
‘However,’ (writes Robert Stein) ‘this is at best an overstatement. There is much in the Gospels concerning the great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents and receives forgiveness (Luke 15:7, 10). It is difficult to see in Jesus’ forgiving the paralytic’s sins (Mark 2:1–12), in his forgiving of the sinful woman (Luke 7:36–50), in the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1–10), and in all the accounts of the forgiving of sinners the theme of the return of the nation from exile as being more central than the forgiveness of these individuals.’…
In Lk 23:34, says John Flavel, we find the best of mercies desired for the worst of sinners.
Peter (Acts 3:17) and Paul (1 Cor 2:8) also stress the ignorance of those who crucified the Lord Jesus. These people may have known many things, but they did not know that this was the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. This was because
though they had the Scriptures, they misunderstood them: they could not believe that the Messiah would arise out of Galilee (Jn 7:52), or that he would die (Jn 12:34; cf.
Reflection on the death of Christ and its achievement, so far from being a sombre experience, actually leads to a type and degree of celebration that can be found nowhere else.
For the cross brings us into a new relationship with God. This relationship is marked by boldness, love and joy. And these do not belong merely in the interior experience of the individual believers, but are to distinguish our public worship.
As W.M. Clow points out:-
There is no forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, except through the cross of Christ.
Forgiveness has not always been valued. Nietzsche, who denounced Christianity as a religion of pity, saw forgiveness as immoral because it glorifies weakness. Others have regarded it as an insipid response to the complexities of responsibility, power and justice. The Briefing #202 (May 1998)
Someone has called forgiveness ‘the most healing force in the world.’
’It would tire the hands of an angel to write down all the pardons God bestows upon true penitent believers. (William Bates)
Where we went with our vicious sins, there we must go with our soiled virtues.’ (W.E.…