Monday, March 19, 2012

Communion in Forgiveness

(Note- I'm using Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton as my Lenten devotional this year. I'll be blogging the journaling prompts most days.)

Christ will not be visible to the world in His Church except in proportion as Christians seek peace and unity with one another and with all men. But since conflict is inevitable, unity cannot be maintained except in great difficulty, with constantly renewed sacrifice, with lucid honesty, openness, humility, the readiness to ask forgiveness and to forgive. ~Seasons of Celebration, p. 217

If Lent is the Church's call to forgive and to be forgiven, how are you answering it?

I'll tell you a little secret about the church, which you may already know. People don't leave their junk at the door. We bring all of ourselves into the church: the good, the bad, and the ugly. People are still people, even in the church. Maybe especially in the church.

Most of the time this is a good and healthy thing, if we're honest about it. But we run into trouble when we put on the facade of having everything figured out, because after a while the junk we're pretending isn't there begins to surface, and we end up doing all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify it under the guise of having it all figured out.

I know I sound like I'm pointing my finger at other people, even when the question is about me. I promise I'm not trying to, so please hear me out.

I say this because I have an extremely hard time forgiving people who create chaos in the church to compensate for unresolved junk in other areas of their lives. Sometimes these folks are labeled clergy killers, and while the term has a lot of truth to it, it can quickly turn into a destructive label that just perpetuates the problem.

That's what I allow to happen to me, at least. Instead of allowing the understanding of the "clergy killer" phenomenon to give me compassion for those folks' places of deep brokenness, I let it become a label that excuses me from seeing them as anything other than a problem to be contained or eliminated.

(Sidenote- I don't currently find myself in the midst of any of this kind of conflict. If I did, I probably wouldn't blog about it, even in such a general way, as it would likely just make the problem worse)

I may have very good reasons to be angry at someone who bullies a pastor or other church staff, but I can have a very hard time letting go of that anger, and I don't ask God for help letting go of it nearly as much or as sincerely as I should. There's a part of me that somehow feels justified or empowered by holding on to it, even though the only one it harms is me.

Holding on to anger and not wanting to forgive makes it that much harder for me to receive forgiveness. If someone I considered to be a "clergy killer" called me up and offered their forgiveness for the things I had done wrong (real or perceived), I would probably have a difficult time believing they were sincere. And the chances of me calling them up to ask for forgiveness and offer my own are quite slim.

Lord, you call us to forgive just as we are forgiven by you, but I confess I often don't want to forgive. Help me have the desire to persist on the journey of forgiveness. Amen.

1 comment:

Justin78 said...

Thank you for this inspiring post. I have SUCH a hard time forgiving people at times, and it's heartening to know that even a pastor struggles with the same principle.
For Lent, I took on the task of intentionally forgiving both small and large actions. It's proven very difficult, so I've been reading some books to inspire me and keep me on track. One favorite thus far is "Forgiving the Unforgivable" by Master Charles Cannon ( who forgave terrorists who took his friend's life. Even having the book out on my bedside table has helped me forgive more quickly and completely.
Again, thank you for telling your story!