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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

Forgiveness... at a Distance

Main Idea: We're not at our best, right now.

 

Many denominations have suspended payments from parishes, and many church staff and clergy are voluntarily reducing their pay. Jubilee from remuneration is a beautiful thing. 


But it’s not like this is “extra” money that’s not needed, so there will be sacrifices made. Still, it is a beautiful thing. Jubilee, indeed. 


The version of the Lord’s Prayer my grandparents knew had the phrase “forgive us our debts” as a way of asking forgiveness of our sins, but it also holds a lot of nuances beyond “sins.” 


I think we can all ponder this and wax poetic about the various nuances. But, today, I’d like to focus on the unique position of forgiveness we find ourselves in currently during our global pandemic trials. 


Life asks us to distance from each other in some ways, and in others, we find ourselves uncomfortably close to each other. 


Both of these things cause stress. Not just because it’s a change - and change always creates stress - but because this runs counter to our human nature. 


Every relationship in every culture finds health in a tension between the urges for togetherness and separateness. 


Societies and families have found various ways of agreeing upon how best to deal with this tension. When those agreed-upon ways are disrupted, we become stressed. When we become stressed, we find ourselves behaving in ways we later regret. 


When we behave regrettably, we learn something about ourselves. We also find we must forgive ourselves, ask forgiveness from others, and forgive others when they surprise us by their own regrettable behavior. 


Right now, we are called to forgive each other in ways we’re not used to because we’re stressed and behaving in ways we’re not used to. We are called to learn this spiritual lesson afresh. 


And I am grateful for this even though it is not the most pleasant thing in the world. 


We are overwhelmed right now, and small things we could ignore a few weeks ago can set us off. We can take things too far without realizing it, and become an additional burden to our colleagues and friends. Systemic and large-scale challenges can provoke us to lash out at individuals. 


We know we should not behave in these ways, but we do. I’ve done it. You probably will, too. 


Do not cut off. I’m not kidding. You may need to put your colleague into “time out” for 30 days and restrict your family member from contacting you between certain hours. 


I give you permission to let only certain people enter your life for very short amounts of time. That’s fine. More than fine. Necessary, even. But do not cut off. Not now. 


Forgiveness is a gift from the Church and of the Church and for the Church. 

No matter how small the church, wherever two or three are forgiving each other, we are indeed “being” the church. 


During these days, dealing with our stress and forgiving each other may be some of the most important ways to be the church. 


It’s easy to talk about forgiveness, but harder to do. Google “how to forgive,” and I’m sure you’ll find helpful methods. 


Here’s mine: 


  1. Confess. I admit to myself, I admit to God, what has gone amiss. 

  2. Repent. I turn my heart away from what has gone amiss and turn toward God. 

  3. I seek forgiveness. I ask myself, and I ask God to forgive me.

  4. Receive forgiveness. I allow myself to receive my own and God’s forgiveness. 

  5. I seek healing. I ask God to heal me because I don’t know how to heal myself, and I need Jesus, the Great Healer.

  6. I receive healing. I allow myself to receive divine healing, exploring how I may change and heal and grow. 

This process works the same when someone has hurt us, and we need to forgive them. 


There is more, of course, to forgiveness. But this is a start. It’s something to hold onto when we’re feeling lost and hurt or ashamed. 


I hope you have someone to talk to about stress and regrettable behavior and forgiveness. I think many of us are afraid to lay more burdens on each other, even our pastors, although I promise your pastors truly live to serve you - especially now. 


So, if you feel you want to talk to someone and are at a loss, please feel free to contact me privately. I have a pastor’s heart, and I would dearly love to listen to you. 


I promise you are never a burden to me.  I love you. Now, and always. No matter what.

 
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