Wednesday 15th June 2022
Written by Deans Buchanan

Forgiving one another,
just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:32

Forgiveness, the door towards healing and wholeness, restoration and reconciliation, is complex – as demonstrated in the media.

Martin Rowson’s[1] cartoon of Jubilee burning-beacons (Tory seats in flames) pictures the Prime Minister in a large central beacon. Engulfed in fire he shouts: but I have repeatedly forgiven myself – self-forgiveness used to get off the hook. The world of golf has condemned Phil Mickelson for controversial remarks (and his creative rule-breaking to stop his ball rolling off the green). Rory McIlroy called for forgiveness (we all make mistakes; he deserves forgiveness) while others think he warrants punishment.

In an interview, Archbishop Justin Welby was asked can Prince Andrew can be forgiven? His suggestion that forgiveness is possible for all people[2], triggered heated social reaction. Is forgiveness only for some types of wrong-doing? Stacey Dooley, interviewing women lifers, balked at the thought of the most heinous crimes being forgiven.[3]

Forgiveness is not natural to us. The gospel – a message of forgiveness – when first proclaimed in Greek/Roman society evoked incredulity. The social norm of revenge or appeasement was challenged by the Judeo-Christian emphasis on God’s forgiveness. All of us, being rebels against God, need his forgiveness through Christ’s blood shed for our sins. Being forgiven demands us to forgive others.

The first biblical account of forgiveness is found in Joseph’s story.[4] Sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph’s fortunes change (Pharaoh’s second-in-command). He meets his brothers with a game-changing can of their actions: you meant it for evil, God meant it for good. The brothers shared (a fabricated?) message from their father’s dying words: I ask you to forgive your brothers. They expressed repentance, a vital step in receiving forgiveness.

Miami ten-year-old Chris Carrier was abducted, shot in the neck and left to die in the Everglades. He survived. Twenty years later an elderly man  confessed to being his abductor. Chris visited this decrepit old man. One day the man clasped Chris’s hand, expressing his sorrow over what he had done. From Chris he learned of Christ who could forgive all our sin; because of that Chris offered him forgiveness too.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.[5]

[1] The Guardian, Wednesday, 1st June 2022.
[2] He was arguing for a more forgiving society; he distinguished between forgiveness and the need to accept the consequences of our wrong-doing.
[3] Locked up with Lifers, W 9.05.2022. Documentary filmed in a radical Corrective Institution for Women in USA.
[5] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.
Scottish Charity No. SCO07105

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Newton Mearns Baptist Church · 2 Greenfarm Road · Newton Mearns · GLASGOW, G77 6FA · United Kingdom