Forgive One Another

A sermon by Michael Pahl on November 10, 2019, called “Forgive One Another.” This is the fourth in a five-part series called “One Another.”

Here is a written excerpt from the conclusion:

As we live out this generosity of spirit toward others, forgiveness comes more naturally—at least for the everyday hurts and harms we all experience.

These are the ordinary bumps and bruises of living life together. The unintentional slight. The awkward behaviour. The careless word spoken in ignorance, or the gruff manner induced by stress or fatigue. Someone falling short of expectations. These everyday offenses all become easier to forgive when we live in a space of grace cultivated by humility and compassion.

Of course, there are deeper wounds, wounds which are not easily healed. Callous indifference. Willful ignorance. Malicious cruelty. Grave injustice.

For these more long-lasting, more destructive harms, forgiveness is complicated, and it’s difficult, but it is still possible. These require wrongs to be named and brought into the light of day. They require deep repentance by the wrong-doer, a significant commitment to change. They might require restitution or reparations, sacrifices being made in order to make amends. And they might involve multiple wrong-doers, even entire systems bent toward injustice and oppression.

Forgiveness for these deeper wounds is complicated, and it’s difficult, but it is still possible. It is certainly easier to work toward forgiveness of others for these deeper wounds—or at least the gift of releasing ourselves from their power—when we have nurtured a space of grace, a generous spirit, in our everyday lives.

Be gracious with each another.

Create a space of grace for one another, in all your interactions with each other. Develop a generosity of spirit toward others, a fundamental openness to the other person, just as they are. Receive each other warmly, not with a critical spirit, not with a defensive spirit, not with a fearful or judgmental spirit, but with a spirit of humility and compassion.

Be gracious with each other.

Allow this generosity of spirit to generate sympathy for the other person. Find the ways your experience compares with theirs. Allow this “space of grace” you create even to generate empathy with the other, a sense of solidarity with them, discovering that your parallel experiences are in fact shared human experiences.

Allow this generosity of spirit, this space of grace you create with others, to then generate compassion, the movement of your spirit with their spirit, moving you in the Spirit toward acts of compassion, acts of mercy and kindness—including forgiveness.

Be gracious with each other, in other words, as God in Christ has been gracious with you. Amen.

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