Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Old MacDonald Spoke of Forgiveness


...E, I, E, I, O...

But seriously, George MacDonald (1824-1905) was not only a literary inspiration for the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, but a Scottish preacher who also published three volumes of Unspoken Sermons...from which comes the following words about one of my favorite topics, forgiveness.


I do not know that it is of much use to go back to the Greek or the English word -- It will be enough if we look at the feelings associated with the exercise of what is called forgiveness.

A man will say: "I forgive, but I cannot forget. Let the fellow never come in my sight again." To what does such a forgiveness reach? To the remission or sending away of the penalties which the wronged believes he can claim from the wrong-doer.


But there is no sending away of the wrong itself from between them.


Again, a man will say: "He has done a very mean action, but he has the worst of it himself in that he is capable of doing so. I despise him too much to desire revenge. I will take no notice of it. I forgive him. I don't care."


Here, again, there is no sending away of the wrong from between them-- no remission of the sin.


A third will say: "I suppose I must forgive him; for if I do not forgive him, God will not forgive me."


This man is a little nearer the truth, inasmuch as a ground of sympathy, though only that of common sin, is recognized as between the offender and himself.


One more will say: "He has wronged me grievously. It is a dreadful thing to me, and more dreadful still to him, that he should have done it. He has hurt me, but he has nearly killed himself. He shall have no more injury from it that I can save him. I cannot feel the same towards him yet; but I will try to make him acknowledge the wrong he has done me, and so put it away from him. Then, perhaps, I shall be able to feel towards him as I used to feel. For this end I will show him all the kindness I can, not forcing it upon him, but seizing every fit opportunity; not, I hope, from a wish to make myself great through bounty to him, but because I love him so much that I want to love him more in reconciling him to his true self. I would destroy this evil deed that has come between us. I send it away. And I would have him destroy it from between us too, by abjuring it utterly."


Which comes nearest to the divine idea of forgiveness?


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Truth is...we all know the answer to that question. May we love people enough to truly forgive them; restoring the relationship between us and the people who wrong us, and between the people who wrong us and God.

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