Trinity Lutheran Church

Pastor’s Monthly Letter

       Recently I have been forced to think on the nature of forgiveness. The words when, why, and how are common. Not every situation is the same but they have all had one common denominator. That common piece shared by everyone I have engaged with is how do I forgive when the person who has victimized me will not apologize (seek reconciliation).  These questions forced me to reread Bishop Desmond Tutu’s, No Future Without Forgiveness. Desmond Tutu is a former Anglican Bishop from South Africa best known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. Bishop Tutu was a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid in 1994. Witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. It was this experience that greatly influenced No Future Without Forgiveness. I want to share this quote from that book with you,

 

But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offence. I don’t like to talk about my own personal experience of forgiveness, although some of the things people have tried to do to my family are close to what I’d consider unforgivable. I don’t talk about these things because I have witnessed so many incredible people who, despite experiencing atrocity and tragedy, have come to a point in their lives where they are able to forgive. Take the Craddock Four, for example. The police ambushed their car, killed them in the most gruesome manner, set their car alight. When, at a TRC hearing, the teenage daughter of one of the victims was asked: would you be able to forgive the people who did this to you and your family? She answered, ‘We would like to forgive, but we would just like to know who to forgive.’ How fantastic to see this young girl, still human despite all efforts to dehumanize her. No Future Without Forgiveness.

 

       In order to forgive the perpetrator, the perpetrator must acknowledge their sin. The words of the teenage daughter, “We would like to forgive, but we would just like to know who to forgive.” We cannot forgive someone who has sinned against us if they do not seek forgiveness and reconciliation. As we pray the Lord’s prayer we say, “Forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us.” But the words of 1st John have a point to make here, “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We must confess our sins against God. We must confess our sins against each other. And others must confess to us in order to receive forgiveness. You see, forgiveness is not, “I forgive you.” It is about reconciliation. It is about mending a broken relationship. And this cannot take place unless the perpetrator is willing to confess, and the victim is willing to forgive.

       Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for everything I just wrote, God’s forgiveness is radical in nature. As Jesus is being nailed to the cross, he cries out, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." I believe in the end God’s forgive us even when we are ignorant of what we are done. But we aren’t God and I believe reconciliation, true forgiveness for us can only occur when both perpetrator and victim desire it.

 

       

Blessings,

Pastor Brad