Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Words have meaning and they have power

I am thinking there may be much confusion between what we mean when we say forgiveness and reconciliation. In order for any of us to be reconciled to God and to one another there must be repentance.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me."

Our reconciliation to God is through the cross of Christ and what we bring is our repentance. No repentance, no reconciliation.

Forgiveness is another matter. We begin with the forgiveness God has for us, again through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We are forgiven not on our own merit, but in the merits of the Son of God who gave His life that we might have life. He has paid the debt we could not pay.

Forgiveness is something we extend to others in response to the forgiveness that we have received. It is not the same as reconciliation. Bishop Festo of Uganda was quite clear on that in his own teachings - he could forgive Idi Amin for what Amin did to him, but that is not the same as reconciliation.

I think we do underestimate the power of forgiveness - of what can happen when we forgive others for what they have done to us. When we ask forgiveness of others, we begin our own journey of repentance. But even that is not reconciliation.

We pray every time we pray the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." But even that is not reconciliation.

Tory Baucum and Truro, as are so many of us who were once in the Episcopal Church - we may be walking out forgiveness, even mutual forgiveness - but that is not reconciliation.

I do think it's important that we all be careful about our words - our words have meaning and they have power. We do need to be careful that we say forgiveness when we mean forgiveness, that we say trust when we mean trust, but that we don't reimagine reconciliation to be either - reconciliation includes forgiveness and trust, but it also includes repentance.

One of the best ways to teach is to model the teaching, to be a disciple, to live out the teaching in one's life, even when we fail. It seems that when trust has broken - and God knows that trust was destroyed between Truro and The Episcopal Church and remains so even now, what we learn from Bishop Festo is that we learn to forgive. Forgiveness is not repentance, forgiveness is not reconciliation - but forgiveness is what Jesus instructed us to do and it is so powerful that when we forgive another, indeed their sins are forgiven.

'Forgive our sins as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?

In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
how trifling debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you.