Forgiveness and the Heart of God

Jonah did not like that the people of Nineveh saw the “error of their ways.”  He was more attached to his role of self-righteous victim and ranting “prophet” than to the radical Divine option that those oppressing Powers That Be might actually experience grace and a second chance.

I’d like to reread, soon, Miguel de la Torre’s book Liberating Jonah: Toward a Biblical Ethics of Reconciliation.  I’ve always loved the story of Jonah, and began serious discipling study of it in 2005.  Miguel’s book offers some wonderful challenges about what it means to forgive injustice and to truly envision reconciliation. And there’s no sugar coating it.

That’s really important: no sugar coating.  As we embark together in coaching and classes this year as part of Living Well Ministries’ Forgive for Life programs, we will support one another in a forgiveness journey which holds truth of pain and radical compassion together.  No sugar coating.  No self-righteousness, either.

I hope that I can support, in these settings and others, the sustainable prophetic work of those called to transform  injustice in our world.  So very often I encounter those engaged in justice work I truly value and share in interactions which reveal such animosity, resentment, and demonizing toward “the Other” who they would blame for society’s ills.  No doubt, many structural injustices and systemic prejudices — such as racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and sexism — permeate our current reality and hold many in bondage through invisible systems of privilege and unequal power and opportunity.   In Buddhist terms, our attachments to blame and our aversions poison us all. The liberating and creating work of justice-making cannot thrive while we are stuck in that abyss.

As a Christian coach, I hold the vision of shalom for us all.  Peace, completeness and well-being might be modern aspects of this Hebrew concept.  In my personal life, public ministry and coaching/teaching work, I hold space for people to articulate the pain and damage they feel and see WHILE LETTING GO of Jonah’s temptation to make the human vessels of harm out to be evil incarnate.   I have slowly shed a view (now, to shed in daily experience!)  of God as one whose wrath would come down to punish my/our enemies.  Or, that I have the power and right to  dehumanize those whose beliefs and actions cause harm.

We have the opportunity to cultivate a Divine heart that, unlike Jonah’s, truly desires the well-being of all victims and all violators.   (That’s the approach to forgiveness I take, inspired by Marjorie Suchocki’s work).  Anticipating Lent is a good time to recall that a forgiveness that demands a punitive judgment is not Christ’s gospel.  Forgiveness looks like acceptance, bold truth-telling, and a welcome Home.

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”   Romans 5:8

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