Divine technology for regeneration and kotahitanga
Being in prison is not always a physical place it can be a state of the mind or heart. We can we be imprisoned by our thinking or ‘locked down’ by our past, our history, our sense of guilt or of being betrayed and treated badly by others in a trusted relationship.
Unforgiveness is a kind of imprisonment. If we don’t confess and address the hurt then it can take hold of our hearts, make us bitter and angry, particularly if we wait for someone else to do something about addressing this injustice.
What if they never do? What if what is offered is never enough? Do we hold on to unforgiveness because we limit the true meaning of the word and its power for transformation? Do we have to admit that a mediator, a third party is needed to make this work?
The key to a following Christ is to place our burdens before him and trust that through that relationship we can be ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven (Psalm 103; Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven, Alan Gray and John Goss), whether or not the other party reciprocates in kind or refuses to acknowledge the damage they have done.
This applies to personal relationships, perhaps restoring harmony in a marriage, a business or friendship, because it releases the offended person from the pain of their own anger and frustration, taking away any spiritual hold the offending party may think they have. Forgiveness is release.
If that’s the case then it should definitely apply to how Christians live and respond to adversity and injustice. If the Treaty of Waitangi is a document born out of Christian principles and written up and signed under the context of Christian understanding, then the key to the future is acceptance of what has happened in the past, accountability and mutual forgiveness. Anything less is unfinished business that will sabotage us all.
I was reminded of the late Sir Paul Reeves powerful statement of forgiveness during the Wellington and Taranaki settlement process on 31 July 2009 which was in direct relation to the original Wakefield- New Zealand Company purchases and the beginning of the Taranaki claims.
This was in response to a Crown apology and settlement and it became the first statement of forgiveness from an iwi group back to the Crown which made it even more powerful. “Our forgiveness comes from our painful history…An apology, forgiveness, leads on to the greatest prize, which is reconciliation.”
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful concepts in the Bible and has a rich whakapapa. In the Old Testament It was very conditional, often mediated by the priesthood and requiring animal sacrifice. In the New Testament (covenant, kawenata) Christ fulfilled the law, as the ultimate high priest mediating between man and God declaring forgiveness and reconciliation as the new key to a life of liberty.
Regardless of what the empire or religious oppressors of the time said or did they no longer had the same hold, their hold was broken because the people were filled with a hope of a different kind. Once his followers grasped this, they began to think and see differently.
The real faith, hope, love and forgiveness revolution could now begin.
Skimming through the Strongs Concordance meanings, forgiveness means to send away, to completely cancel (Matt 6:12; 18:27, 32), to cover, to bestow an unconditional favour, to let loose from or release; the remission of punishment and penalty, the removal of offence because of sin, debts or trespasses based on Christ’s atoning sacrifice. https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/Dictionary/viewTopic.cfm?topic=VT0001113
I was inspired to write this piece because I rediscovered a statement by Richard Rohr that I think nailed the concept of forgiveness in a fresh way that can bring revelation.
“Only mutual apology, healing and forgiveness offer a sustainable future for humanity. Otherwise we are controlled by the past, individually and corporately. We all need to apologise, and we all need to forgive or this human project will surely self-destruct. No wonder almost two-thirds of Jesus’ teaching is directly or indirectly about forgiveness, Otherwise history winds down into taking sides, deep bitterness and remembered hurts, plus the violence that inevitably follows. As others have said ‘Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different or better past’. It is what it is, and such acceptance leads to great freedom, as log is there is also accountability and healing in the process. Nothing new happens without apology and forgiveness. It is the divine technology for the regeneration of every age and every situation. The ‘unbound’ ones are best prepared to unbind the rest of the world,” Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water, pp.48-49