A number of years ago, I had the privilege of studying at Tantur Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem, a Papal Institute run by Notre Dame University. One day, a gaggle of divinity school students from the (formerly?) United Kingdom came to hear a lecture on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The lecturer, a Jewish thought leader, expertly highlighted the historical transitions between empires. The crucible-like intersection of this tiny sliver of land was between east and west, north and south. He spoke of the complex relationships among Muslims and Christians and Jews and how the conflict had now turned interminable. There was no stopping or preventing it.
One divinity student raised his hand, and said, "What role do you think forgiveness plays in this conflict?" This brilliant lecturer was clearly dumbstruck. It was as if he had never considered the idea before. Eventually, he said, "We don't talk much about forgiveness, but we do talk about honor, and the importance of upholding honor. The ideas are similar; they function in the same fashion."
It was a fascinating response, one, I thought, that guaranteed no way forward. Truth be told, I couldn't agree less. According to the Christian faith, forgiveness is not about honor; it's about grace. It's about letting go. It's about admitting life is not fair and embracing goodness and love anyway.
This week, we'll start a four-week sermon series on forgiveness, an essential but difficult topic for all of us. You can prepare by
reading this passage.
I hope you'll make a special effort to attend. You might even invite someone to join you!