April 15, 2009
More than Forgiveness
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Which is easier: forgiveness or reconciliation? As I come away from Easter, I find myself trying to discern between the two actions.
One – forgiveness – has become Americanized into the simple “forgive and forget” phrase. Not that the saying is entirely inaccurate. Every Christian treasures the promise of the Psalms, that “as far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) But somewhere along the way, I started scrambling the concepts. Forgiving and forgetting just seems so simple, and I beat myself up when we can’t “forget” how someone wronged us. I take “forgive and forget” and think it means “forgiving equals forgetting.” So if I can’t forgive… I can just forget about it, right? Or maybe just forget about the person if that’s easier. And quickly, forgiving becomes forgetting… becomes ignoring.
As I started writing this devotional, I kept thinking of stories I’ve read about the Rwandan genocide. Take the book “As We Forgive,” the war stories of several individuals who lived through the massacres and into the new government. Dealing with grief, anger, loss, and the desire for revenge, each survivor’s life eventually intersects with someone from “the other side.” Even more traumatizing, these people are directly connected with the survivors’ friends’, families’, and even spouses’ deaths.
Imagine such a meeting. Face to face with the person who destroyed the other’s life. Forgive and forget completely falls apart, doesn’t it? It’s not humanly possible to forget death of those you love, not without losing yourself in the process.
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Rwanda’s hurts have only begun to heal, just as the people portrayed in “As We Forgive” must travel a long road before they find peace. But slowly, each victim in the book finds himself offering a hand of forgiveness to the perpetrators, the killers. The handshakes are more than symbolic – these people, Tutsi and Hutu, must now work alongside each other, meet in the streets… and always bear the absence of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in 1994. There is no forgetting.
But there is reconciliation.
Easter unleashes God’s offer of reconciliation to those who killed him. The Resurrection doesn’t make God forget our sins – it allows us back into a relationship with him in spite of our sins. Reconciliation takes forgiveness a step further, and cultivates a new bond based on overwhelming love, not past actions. That’s the “ministry of reconciliation” – and that’s what I’m called to accomplish.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Are you practicing the old “forgive and forget” with someone? Or are you seeking opportunities to spread the “ministry of reconciliation”?