|"This is about 'forgiveness?' So what's my picture doing here?"|
In response to a post by Paul Louis Metzger which included a discussion of some Buddhists’ quest for “emancipation” and its bearing on Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness (Dr. Metzger’s post is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uncommongodcommongood/2014/08/imagine-a-world-without-forgiveness/), my friend and colleague, Chaplain Chris Haughee wrote, “Metzger’s post is entitled ‘Imagine a world without forgiveness,’ and I have one small problem with it…it seems to presuppose that the concept of forgiveness is unique to Christianity, or at least to the person of Jesus Christ.” (Chaplain Haughee’s post is here: http://fullhousewithaces.com/2014/08/27/who-owns-forgiveness/) Here is my reply.
|"Forgiveness? MY boys?! Sorry, no. But penance, well..."|
I would agree that Dr. Metzger portrays a forgiveness that is unique to Christianity, not necessarily that “the concept of forgiveness” is as unique. Everyone wants to talk about forgiveness, it seems. But the question that comes to this chaplain’s mind is this: Is what you are seeing elsewhere really forgiveness? Sadly, though, I cannot deny that it is too-seldom seen among followers of Jesus Christ. But there seem to be some important distinctions to be made.
Even where we seek to practice theology-in-community, I’m hopeful that we realize, as you note, that we cannot “simply distill all religious traditions down to their philosophical ideal” without taking into account the “imperfect permutations” we will always encounter. Just as you rightly emphasize regarding Buddhist “denominationalism,” some of Christ’s most visible adherents routinely neglect to pursue justice, mercy, and humility in their interactions with one another, not to mention with the “large number of families that have come to groups of Jesus’ followers looking for grace, understanding, and compassion, and…have been sent away wanting.”
Forgiveness and compassion are too frequently lacking among many followers of Jesus. But in my experience and education, I find that other religious and non-religious groups provide for something labeled as, but only resembling forgiveness. Again, allowing for limitations in my education and experience, I find others prescribing a mutual disengagement of the issues, a patronizing condescension of another’s “errors,” or a patient trust that one may simply wait to see that “what goes around comes around” (i.e., “Karma’s going to get you eventually”).
The foundational principles on which interpersonal conflict results in either conciliation or separation may qualify only as a “philosophical ideal.” But if we are not clear about the reasons and resources for actual forgiveness, we end up “making do” with something else, which is always something less and, I would reiterate, something different than the forgiveness made available to us, and possible through us, by the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.
|Not roses. Don't call them that.|
In a few similar conversations, others have expressed their preference for other traditions’ approach to conflict. Some have advocated silent avoidance (“Let’s just agree to disagree.”), sullen minimalization (“No, it’s not really that important.”), or Solomonic arbitration (“Can we just split the difference?”) But I have not found elsewhere an approach such as Jesus recommends (in Matthew 18:15-18), much less that which He admonishes (in Matthew 6:14-15), warns (in Matthew 18:21-35), and commands (Luke 17:1-4) regarding a forgiveness based in emulating His sacrifices.
The sacrifices necessary to consistently show mercy require a desperate reliance on the protection and provision promised by Christ. Otherwise, even where some friends are seeking to entirely eradicate their self (see my post at http://deathpastor.blogspot.com/2014/08/unity-in-and-among-diversity-level-two.html), the human tendency to self-preservation, at the very least, requires us to place limitations on the exercise of anything remotely resembling Christ’s completion of and our calling to forgiveness.
From my perspective, then, only in a cruciform, sacrificial servanthood (II Corinthians 4:5, Philippians 2:17, Colossians 1:24, etc.), which is possible only through the Christ-conforming influence of the Holy Spirit, is there any foundation and, therefore, any potential for true forgiveness.
As my friend noted, “This, certainly, is a topic that has been and will be hotly debated.” And it may require some forgiveness, too. But I hope that you will comment in either confirmation, contradiction, or both—depending upon the particular areas that interest you.
|Thought I should leave you with a dozen roses.|