August 1, 2019

Belonging with Purpose: Forgiveness from our relational God

Did you ever wonder where the process and practice of forgiveness originated? It is first mentioned in Genesis 9, after the flood God sent to blot us out (all except Noah’s family and some animals). Our very human behaviors (missing his marks) had made him so angry that he was sorry he ever created us. Then he remembered he loved us and had made us in his own image. He placed the rainbow in the sky as his covenant of forgiveness with humankind for all future generations. He’s been teaching us about forgiveness ever since. Forgiveness is an invitation from our relational God who loves us so much that he seeks us out wherever we go, whatever we do. He invites us to seek his forgiveness and then to extend that same forgiveness to others. Invitation requires a response. We can say “no.” We have free will. If we say “yes” God promises to meet us and to help us in the process of forgiving others. We daily disappoint God just as others on earth disappoint us. But we have been given this reciprocal process to participate in with God. Forgiveness is a big part of God’s longing to be in right relationship with us and for us to be in right relationship with others. I confess that I’m baffled as to why more people don’t say “yes” to forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean condoning bad behavior nor does it erase accountability. Not to forgive is detrimental to our health, our behavior and our well-being. It is a heavy burden to carry anger which builds if we do not or will not forgive the other. Forgiveness releases that anger. For those burdens for which we need someone else’s help to lift off of our shoulders, the Episcopal Church offers the Sacrament of Confession (The Reconciliation of a Penitent, Book of Common Prayer, 447ff) The service ends with the priest saying the words, “The Lord has put away all your sins.” Forgiveness is a practice that starts with a few minutes in prayer. It takes a lifetime to live into that forgiveness, to learn to receive the forgiveness that our generous God gives us and to share that with others. Amazingly, God gives us the strength to receive God’s forgiveness and the patience and perseverance to offer that forgiveness to others. It’s amazingly available. You simply ask God to be with you. And practice. That’s it. Remember, the next time you see a rainbow: Forgiveness is an invitation to you from God. Imagine that! By Anne Beatty


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