Monday, March 5, 2012

Patience, Mercy, Forgiveness.1

"When little is forgiven, little love is returned."

The stormy relationship between the mother and son had
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been brewing for longer than either could remember. The man who'd been both the cause of and buffer from violent, vengeful emotions between the two was lying underground. The dust had hardly settled on the gravesite when the breaking point came. "I wish you'd been the one who'd died," she sneered. Gathering every bit of restraint he could muster, the son pulled over, parked the car, opened the door and said, "I did," and walked away.

The man told me the story when sitting next to his fiance as we discussed their upcoming marriage. Can he be persuaded that his past will effect their future unless dealt with effectively? Can the fact that he already has one failed marriage help in the effort?

God requires it. Love and forgiveness make it possible.
Let's say he, for the sake of his new life, agrees to "forgive" his mother, he could take one of three approaches:

He could say: 
“I forgive, but I cannot forget. 
Let her never come in my sight again.”

To what does such a forgiveness reach? To the remission or sending away of the penalties which the wronged believes he can claim from the wrong-doer.

But there is no sending away of the wrong itself from between them.

Or, he could say: 
“She has done a very mean action, but she has the worst of it herself in that she is capable of doing something so evil. I despise her too much to even desire revenge. I will take no notice of it. I forgive her. I don't care.”

Here, again, there is no sending away of the wrong from between them— no remission of the sin.

A third option would be: 
“I suppose I must forgive her; 
for if I do not forgive her, 
God will not forgive me.”

Now he is a little nearer the truth, finding some ground of sympathy, but only that of common sin is recognized as between his offender and himself.

But here is a better way: 
“She has wronged me deeply. It is still a mighty painful thing to me, and more appalling still to her, that she should have done it. 
She has hurt me, but she has nearly killed herself. She shall have no more injury from it that I can save her. I cannot feel the same towards her yet; but I will try to make her acknowledge the wrong she has done me, and so put it away from her. 
Then, perhaps, I shall be able to feel towards her as I should feel. For this end I will show her all the kindness I can, not forcing it upon her, but seizing every fit opportunity; not, I hope, from a wish to make myself great through generosity to her, but because I love her enough and want to love her more in reconciling her to her true self. 
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I would destroy this evil deed that has come between us. I send it away. And I would have her destroy it from between us too, by completely renouncing it.”

Which comes nearest to God's idea of forgiveness?

Forgiveness can never be indifference. Forgiveness is love towards the unlovely in the hope of restoring loveliness!

(Much of the content of this note adapted from George MacDonald's "It Shall Not Be Forgiven", Unspoken Sermon I. The story of the man and his mom is true.)