Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Mountain III - Forgiveness

This dramatic moment of a fig tree that dies, a temple that is turned upside down, a call to mountaineering as seen in Mark 11, is extraordinary at least.

We have seen so far that God is in the new adventure business. Bigger than Patagonia, more challenging than the Amazon, more captivating than Everest, God in his kindness, perpetually puts us on a journey of challenge - that can only be achieved in partnership with him.

But that is only part one. Jesus also sent the disciples out two by two. Our mountain will only be crested when we do it in community. That notion offends the rampant individualism that holds our western world in hostage. "It is not good for man to be alone" is still a trumpet call that resonates from heaven.

But to our conversation today.

The backpack needed for this new mountain has NO room for extras. As the movie Wild indicates, it is the amateur's mistake to take too much stuff on the trail. The backpack must only carry what is absolutely necessary for the task ahead. All other pieces must be left behind.

That is where forgiveness comes into play. We all end the fig tree season with hurts, pain, disappointments. It may be that we feel let down by those we expected more from. It may be the pain of broken promises, acts of betrayal or unkindness. It may have been intentional hurt or unintentional deeds that led to a broken heart. None of us are exempt from this.

However we will not make it to the top of the new mountain if our backpacks still try to carry these hurts up the hill. We simply will not make it. I know. I have had to empty my backpack of the same senses of betrayal, hurt, broken promises.

Miroslav Volf writes: "To forgive means to accuse wrongdoers, while at the same time freeing them of the charges against them, releasing them from guilt and eventually letting the wrongdoing slip into oblivion. The removal of guilt is a crucial element of forgiveness. If guilt remains, forgiveness hasn't happened...
From Christ, we receive the power and the willingness to forgive. Christ forgives through us and that is why we can forgive...
Just as Christ grieved more over our sin than over the injury our sin caused him, so we grieve for others if Christ lives in us...
To forgive is to give people more than their due, it's to release them from the debt they have incurred and that's bound to mess up the books...
Forgiving the unrepentant is not an optional extra in the Christian way of life; it's the heart of the thing..."

As I have been reading his book "Free of Charge" I have realized how shallow my personal grasp of this revelation truly is. Over the last years I have experienced such deep pain from "enemies", friends, co-laborers, sons... But I have had to face my own dismal grasp of forgiveness. It is shallow, light, easily thrown off course, slow to take root.

Yet I know, this new mountain can only be crested through my ability to find a deeper, truer and more honest space of forgiveness. It is impossible to climb a mountain when you are always looking back. Empty the backpack of all those pains. Throw them out - not in anger, resentment or bitterness. Do it through grace, liberty, freedom, life, even as Christ empowers us through his life of obedience.

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