Forgiveness Helps Get Our Spiritual House In Order SanTan Sun News

Forgiveness Helps Get Our Spiritual House In Order

December 3rd, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Forgiveness Helps Get Our Spiritual House In Order
Spirituality
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By Rev Susan Wilmot

Guest Writer

Perhaps, like me, you experience a kind of reverse pole effect living here in the Valley. There’s something about this time of year that has me itching to clean out stuff.

It got me thinking about cleaning out my spiritual house as well, and that is all about forgiveness. If we don’t do it, then we get mired and bound by the mess inside and around us. But if we clean house regularly, then we feel better, lighter somehow, and our lives are more spacious and gracious.

But perhaps most importantly, when we clean house by forgiving others as we forgive ourselves, then we’re sharing in a ministry of God’s love, grace and hospitality, which also liberates us to love more expansively.

The letter to the Hebrews (9:24-28) describes how Jesus, our Messiah, entered the heavenly sanctuary as the perfect sinless sacrifice, offering forgiveness for the sins of the whole world. Forgiveness is the reality that we’re now called to live into as children of God and the new covenant.

In faith, we celebrate life through obedient, loving and life-changing service to others, extending God’s kingdom of love, forgiveness and healing. Faith is never dull because we’re always in a state of transformation.

Nonetheless, some things are important enough to offer again and again, as Jesus reminded the disciples when they asked Him about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-22. Jesus’ response sounds like tough love because we keep forgetting that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways. We are to forgive without limit, and as a way of life.

Our capacity for forgiveness is intimately bound to accepting God’s forgiveness. It’s also intimately linked to ending worldly violence. When Jesus replies, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times” he’s referring to the story of Lamech from Genesis 4:23-24, who boasts about how he’s taken upon himself the role of judge, jury and executioner.

As so often is the case in life, understanding the depths of our own forgiveness through God’s grace and our faith and forgiving others is an essential part of living into our freedom in Christ.

If we don’t accept God’s forgiveness, which means facing our faults and failures in order to acknowledge our need for forgiveness, then any willingness on our part to forgive others is hollow and meaningless.

When we think about what forgiveness means to us, it’s also a transition from one state to another. Moving from a state of paralyzing fear, perhaps waiting for punishment or retribution, to a state of freedom grounded in loving relationship. When we forgive others, we stop allowing the actions of others from continuing to wound or hurt us in the present.

Forgiveness is the end of all judgment and anger, an end to a desire for revenge or punishment, and an end to our demand that the past can be changed or swept away. Forgiveness heralds the start of new life and liberty by living in the moment rather than dwelling resentfully in the past.

Forgiveness increases our capacity to respond in love. Forgiveness has the power to transform our memories by healing the pain and allowing us to surrender our whole self into God’s hands. Forgiveness empowers us to put others into God’s hands as well.

As we read in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” Likewise, we forgive because in faith, we are forgiven. As usual, God’s kingdom turns the world upside down.

To gain our lives, we must lose ourselves in Christ. And that means surrendering all illusions of power and control in order to live fully into the kingdom of God even now. The incredible freedom we gain in losing ourselves and accepting God’s graceful economy for real life, including love, forgiveness and healing becomes the power of Christ working in and through us.

It’s the power of God that enables us to love and forgive our neighbors as ourselves.

However, forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget the real pain others have caused us or pretend that it doesn’t matter. Our wounds can go very deep. We don’t have to maintain a relationship with someone who repeatedly hurts us. Distance can lend perspective, as well as safety.

It can help us to begin the healing process, finding the way forward through the pain, even to the point where we stop imagining we have any control over the actions of others – we don’t. Or that we can somehow change what’s happened in the past – we can’t.

We can, however, make a choice to change our current perspective, and we can pray that God helps us to forgive. As Martin Luther King once said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude”.

Whether or not reconciliation is wise or possible, forgiveness frees us to live into the fullness of our humanity, and into wholeness in Christ, which is a great reason to start cleaning house!

The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is Vicar at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church & Preschool, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Susan can be reached at rector@stjamestempe.org or at 480-345-2686.

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