FORGIVE (The Our Father, Word by Word)
by Heather King
As we FORGIVE those who trespass against us…
We tend to think that God’s will is out of our hands. We tend to resist abandoning ourselves completely out of fear. But to be forgiven as we forgive beautifully leaves the control in our hands. Maybe we can’t forgive. But the choice at least to pray for the willingness to forgive is ours.
Forgiveness goes so against our natural sense of justice that it often seems beyond our reach: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” [Matthew 18: 21-22]
To forgive, however, is not to be a doormat. A doormat says, “That you hurt me is okay.” The martyr says, “I’m in agony that you hurt me, I’m in sorrow for you and the world, but I’m not going to return violence for violence.”
Just as Christ blew apart for all time the old “law” of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, he also blew apart all notion of counting the cost, hedging our bets, playing things close to the vest. To forgive is not to let someone off the hook—this time. To forgive is not to be outwardly “nice” and inside to plot vengeance. To forgive is to open our arms and heart wide, to remain woundable—as Christ did on the Cross.
What’s important, in other words, isn’t the quantity or extent to which we forgive, but the orientation of heart, the quality, the way in which we forgive. Because in remaining woundable, we don’t just get an equal return: we get more, and of an entirely different order, than we ever could have imagined.
When we stop counting the cost, the universe stops counting the cost toward us. When our hearts overflow toward others, the heart of Christ overflows toward us. The very letting go of our calculating and scheming and fear—not winning; not acting as judge, jury, and executioner—turns out to be what we’ve wanted all along.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” [Luke 6: 37-38]
In Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr writes: I believe with all my heart that the Gospel is all about the mystery of forgiveness. When you “get” forgiveness, you get it. We use the phrase “falling in love.” I think forgiveness is almost the same thing. It’s a mystery we fall into: the mystery is God.”
Heather King is a mind-bogglingly talented writer who describes herself as an ex-drunk, ex-lawyer Catholic convert. She is one of my favorite authors. Be sure to check out her books Parched and Redeemed, as well as the upcoming Shirt of Flame. Her blog, also called Shirt of Flame, is a must-read.