The Scandal of Forgiveness
“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” – Luke 11:4
After the Charleston church massacre a friend told me that he thought it was weak for the families of the slain to forgive their murderer at his hearing. I said, “I found it most inspiring.” “Well you would, wouldn’t you?” he said, “You’re a Christian!”
At that moment I was reminded that I take certain things for granted that are not shared by everyone.
I’d like to think I would have been able to do what those family members did, or at least know it is what I should do.
But I realize that forgiveness is a scandal to many people, even within the church. A couple I go to church with told me how they previously attended a congregation in a suburb of New York City. The week after the 9/11 attacks their pastor preached on forgiveness. Their town, like many in the area, had a number of people who died when the World Trade Center towers fell.
Their pastor was fired for the sermon on forgiveness. Not fired in the Donald Trump “clean out your desk” sort of way, but in the discreet way that upper middle-class folks do it. They said it took only a few influential members, but in a matter of weeks he was gone, called to “new fields of service.”
At the center of our worship spaces is a cross, a reminder that Jesus died forgiving those who murdered him. It is still a scandal.
O God, let us forgive others, as you have forgiven us, in Jesus’ name.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.