Forgiveness: typical of many truths, we all agree on its merits and very few agree to fully express it. We all love to be on the receiving end of it, we often hesitate to be the deliverer. That lack of balance creates some real daily tension in my mind and heart.
Forgiveness: to release, excuse and not pursue any kind of compensation for an offense or perceive offense. It's the only escape hatch for the pit of resentment.
Lewis Smedes concludes in his work, The Art of Forgiving, that God seems to move through stages to forgive humans. Initially, he sees the humanity of the person who wronged him, but removing the barrier created by sin, then he gives up his right to justice, and a fair response (he takes the punishment) and last he changes his feeling toward humans so that when he looks upon us he sees his own adopted children, restored.
That is insightful, but only helpful if we can assume that posture when confronted with real rejection, real violation or even the real irritation. What does that first stage really look like? Considering the humanity of the person who launched at me or you?
Rather than reliving the moment, what about reconsidering the context--what makes that person tick or ticked off? Why did his or her brokenness come crashing down on me--what is that brokenness? How can I help them, or what would help them?
Instead of trying to just love the unlovable, maybe a first small step of pausing to consider his or her humanity (the comment of Christ on the cross...forgive them for they know not what they do). Why did he say that? The second part? That we did not know we were killing the Son of God, yes. But was there more to that comment? We act poorly in ways we don't fully appreciate--unintended consquence or underestimated consequence.
Can I consider that the one who hurt me has no full understanding of that hurt, just as an intial step in the pursuit of gracing others?
This, of course is not to dismiss the necessity of boundaries or the wisdom of creating some space with people who are destructive in ways that I am not equipped to engage--but I started with resentment. Snake nibbles, not bites, that are an all to common occurrence.
What do you think, what do you think it means to consider the humanity of the offender?
(Luther and Smedes quote pulled from What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey--an incredible book).