What if you’re the one needing forgiveness?

Marvelous inspiring stories abound about forgiveness – the Amish in Nickel Mines, Corrie ten Boom with her Nazi captors, countless African-Americans forgiving everything from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration – and, of course, the ultimate act of forgiveness – God forgiving those committing deicide from the cross.

Our last essay dealt with how to forgive those who have sinned against us.

But, what about the other side of the coin?

Suppose you are the one needing forgiveness.

What if you are the one whose unfaithfulness caused the divorce that deeply hurt your spouse and children?

What if you are the boss who unjustly fired employees?

The businessperson who cheated your partners?

The chronic liar, embezzler, manipulator?

What if you were the drunk driver who killed those children?

And, more broadly, how do I repent of being a white male who has benefitted from a racialized culture and whose ancestors may have contributed to the genocide of Native peoples and the enslavement of Africans?

A common default response (in me anyway) is denial. “I didn’t enslave anybody.” “I worked for everything I have.” “It was just business.” “My marriage was emotionally toxic.”

That sounds a lot like the Pharisee at prayer: “I thank You that I am not like others, especially this notorious sinful tax collector here.”

But, the opposite response is not helpful either – the response that sinks into guilt and shame.

It seems that often those who should feel guilty don’t, and those who should feel free and forgiven feel guilty.

The first thing that occurs to me is that removing the log from my own eye is really a good thing to do. That thing hurts. It feels good to get rid of it. Why am I so afraid of repentance?

How can I repent without making the repentance all about me, my shame, my failure, my guilt?

I’ve had trees in my eyes so long, I’m used to them. They feel normal.

I have to come into the light. The light of Jesus (who is the light of the world).

There, I see that I am the perpetrator, the culprit, the offender, the wrongdoer.

I caused the divorce, the car wreck, the personal economic crisis. I am the one who has not been faithful in the little things, the one who squandered the master’s silver.

I have benefitted just because I am melanin-challenged. I have laughed at and passed on racist jokes, condemned those different than I am, supported military might, and bypassed the homeless.

I have accepted theological paradigms that enabled me to skillfully ignore Jesus’ plain teachings.

I am not the innocent victim. I’m more the problem than the solution.

How do I find forgiveness?

I do not know, but I think:

  1. I need you. I need community; genuine, authentic community of faith. Community will give me courage to repent while still being loved. But, how do I find that community?
  2. I need to be honest with God.
  3. I need to make restitution if possible, to ask others for their forgiveness.

What do you think? Can you help me and others like me?

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on February 7, 2018, in Bible, bodily resurrection, Christianity, Prayer, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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