I saw a copy of a letter today. In it, I was criticised. The letter was not sent to me, though I have a suspicion I was intended to see it. It had its effect; I was hurt and disappointed.
I'm preparing a sermon for Sunday at the moment on John 20.19-31. It contains the rather confusing instruction that whoever we forgive is forgiven; and whoever we do not forgive is not forgiven. We get the power to extend the power of the cross or to withhold it, apparently.
Of course, it must mean something else. What is our faith about if not forgiveness? How can there be any point if we can refuse to forgive? How can we be forgiven if we refuse to forgive - doesn't Jesus bang this point home time and time again?
Jesus is not granting the church the right to become power crazed. The church does become power crazed. People always like to assert themselves. It's part of the human condition. But we don't walk this path with Jesus' blessing; he watches us wander down this road with sadness, not approval; sorry disappointment for blessings missed, not nodding gladness for just desserts gained.
Bottom line: the cross says Christianity is about forgiveness. And if we don't get that, don't receive it, don't pass it on - it stops here. Whomever we forgive is forgiven, gloriously; but if we don't forgive - how can anyone be forgiven? If we, who have been given the gold of such blessing, don't pass it on - it stops here. If we don't forgive, no-one is forgiven. It stops.
The cross stops?
The church is always a generation from ending; because we are always a generation away from such selfishness; being glad we are recipients of grace and being glad, we fold our arms and watch everyone else suffer in ignorance and go to hell in a handcart.
I'm hurt and disappointed by what I read today. But - if my faith means anything, then what am I to do?
Be miffed for an hour. And remember what I have been forgiven, eventually. And if I have been forgiven, then I have to forgive too. And again. And again, till it sticks. This doesn't fail because I'm selfish; it works because I remember, and am grateful.
The person who wrote of me is loved by Jesus. The person they wrote to is loved by Jesus. So am I. These are truths I know more than feel right now; but sometimes we have to settle for the head leading the heart.
Whoever we forgive is forgiven. So we forgive. This brings life, and life is better.