6.2.06

Love and forgiveness - Jesus Army Life, Day 204

I have a friend who has been on the receiving end of discipline by his church recently. Deservedly so, but I can't help feeling there's a lack of love or real interest too.

In my limited experience, the denial of love, or as a friend once put it: neglect, is one of the biggest injustices I know. I defy anyone to stand in pure judgement over someone he has not first loved. In our church we're taught that we win the right to speak into someone else's life: to criticise, to encourage, to share, to command, only if we love them. The power of authority comes from the willingness to sacrifice yourself for others. We should tremble with fear if we admonish someone on any other basis.

I'm learning, I think for the first time, that forgiveness isn't always so easy. Sure, there's one level where I feel I can forgive anyone anything, but there's another level where it's hard to let go off an injustice, however much you try to forgive.

I've been reflecting on the power of love and fear recently, and I guess it ties into this problem of forgiveness. Jesus says,

If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6

Forgiveness is about the decision to love - not the decision to forget. What kind of Father God do we have if we believe that his forgiveness involves no love, if it's simply a choice to let us off the hook? The forgiveness that Jesus speaks of is a decision to get reconnected with others, to realise that, if you want to move on, somehow you're going to have to work with these people again, even if it's only in your own heart. It may take time and pain but anything else isn't really forgiveness.

Fear can rule our lives, but forgiveness is a way out, and it's something I have to stay continuously open to because, personally, I find it hardest trusting my own friends. I guess it's crazy but I have to choose to work with the same people I know could hurt me in the next instant. And that's not always easy. Most people fear to approach a stranger, I don't, I fear the man who knows me.

Strangers are easy - I know exactly where a stranger is coming from: they don't trust me. And that's okay, I can work with that because I am still willing to love them. But, ironically, the man who knows me I don't feel so confident with, because I know I can love them as much as I like, but if their agenda is not entirely good I can't stop them hurting me. Consequently, I find myself in this strange position where there are many I want to love but few people whom I entirely trust. A friend can hurt you more than an enemy's wounds.

It's interesting that Jesus did not "entrust himself" to the people who believed in him but loved them and forgave anyway (John 2). Perhaps the reality is that only with repentance and right actions can we choose to really trust people. But the choice of love has to be there from the start.