Thoughts about Forgiveness, Part III
I mentioned in a blog post many months ago an idea that I found in an article by JF Lacaria (Director of Leadership Formation and Ministry Support for the WV Annual Conference). “So that…” The phrase “so that” and the thought process behind will help to make fruitful ministry.
My question today, as we continue with Thoughts about Forgiveness is this: What is the “so that” of forgiveness? Why is it necessary for us to forgive? What is the fruit of forgiveness?
So that we will be obedient…
It’s true, and it’s a very obvious but overlooked response. We forgive so that we will be obedient to what God tells us to do. God tells us to forgive each other. Jesus models forgiveness. If we are to place God as Lord of all, then we do what he tells us. One of the things he tells us to do is to forgive.
So that the love triangle will be complete...
Don’t get all excited. It’s not that kind of love triangle. It’s a concept that I read about today. God love me. I love others. Others love God (if I’ve done my job in making a disciple). The triangle is complete. Unforgiveness is a roadblock to love. When we forgive someone else, that roadblock is removed. The triangle can be made complete.
Don’t be narrow minded about this. I don’t only mean that forgiving someone means that we can now love them. I also mean that forgiving person A means that we are free to now love person B and person C and person D. Anger and hatred impact more than just the relationship with person A.
In a strange twist of events in examining this aspect of forgiveness, look at John 21:15-19. In this passage, Peter and the resurrected Jesus are having a conversation. It is the “Peter, do you love me” conversation. It’s a great piece of scripture – deep and full of meaning. There was some discussion of it in class last week, and one of the conclusions was that Jesus asked Peter the “do you love me” question three times to make a point that he remembered the betrayal or to remind him of that betrayal. I disagree. I think Jesus knew Peter pretty well, and knew how devastated he was by what he was done. Jesus pursues Peter, asking him again and again – three times – until Peter finally gives in and forgives himself, even as he accepts forgiveness from Jesus. “Feed my sheep.” Anger at ourselves can be as much of a roadblock as anger at another.
So that we can be of service to God...
Carrying the Peter theme through to this one, Peter must forgive himself. He must let go of the guilt he feels. It isn’t easy, and in the process, he struggles against Jesus’ efforts. He is hurt by Jesus’ repetition of the question. Jesus is making a point, though. He is telling Peter, “Even though you betrayed me, I forgive you. I forgive you even that.” Peter has to let go of it, too, so that Jesus can send him out to “feed his sheep.” Jesus sends the forgiven Peter out in service. Service which will lead to his eventual death. Without the forgiveness, though, I don’t think any of it would have happened. Peter would have been a fisherman for the rest of his life.
What is the “so that” of forgiveness? We forgive
- So that we say with our lives that God is God
- So that we know with our hearts that God is love
- So that we do with our lives that which says we love God.