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Forgiveness


Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – A Conference Breakout Preview

In this past week’s Another Week Ends, I mentioned very briefly the newest season of Invisibilia, one of our go-to podcasts. That particular episode, “The Pattern Problem,” tells the story of a woman with a seriously checkered past, some her fault, some not at all. She’s the child of addicts, an ex-addict and ex-felon herself, and yet she’s made an against-all-odds comeback: after a couple stints in prison, she gets into law school and is now studying for the bar. A panel of judges overseeing the bar in her state is deciding whether or not her past precludes her from such an unlikely future.

I won’t give away what ends up happening, but you can see where the focus on “patterns” comes into play. Does her criminal past foreshadow the future? Can we really be sure she’s changed? Patterns provide ways for people to make sober decisions. They are the conditional protective measures for how we decide to invest our time, our money, and in this case, our forgiveness. Courts as institutions are not known to be particularly forgiving—it’s not their job—but the same patterns are at work for us, in our minds, in the ways we read the news and process the actions of our strangers and friends alike.

Human beings don’t just dole out our forgiveness to anyone. To the contrary, unforgiveness is tended to like a formal garden. Each garden has hard boundaries with designated entrances, and strict guidelines for keeping its delicate order alive. It has to be that way. Otherwise, the garden would be indistinguishable from the chaos surrounding it. I am not trying to be glib. This is really how it has to be.

At the same time, social science has made it clear that unforgiveness will, in the end, kill you. For all the sensible order our fine gardens provide, they are solitary places, kept alive by stress, numbness to intruders, and estrangement. In other words, unforgiveness may simplify the “pattern problem,” but forgiveness, we are told by social science (and by the New Testament), is the way to new life.

In this breakout, we will talk about the psychology of forgiveness, its proven biological and psychosocial benefits, its various meanings in our culture, and the real, totally practical hope it expresses in the Bible.

Register for the 11th Annual Mockingbird Conference here! Miss out, and you’ll never forgive yourself…

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Twenty Seven Verses Three Through Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Twenty Seven Verses Three Through Five

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Mt 27:3-5).

At the risk of impertinence, I’m just going to assume that everyone reading this (myself included) has already betrayed Jesus today. At least a few times. So I’d like to focus less on…

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Tom, Time, and the Tyranny of Perfection

Tom, Time, and the Tyranny of Perfection

I’m finally ready for Tom Brady again. Are you? We watched as he was doubted at points during the second-to-most-recent NFL season—during which he was thirty-nine years old—only to come back and win the Super Bowl. We watched as he was lauded last season—at forty—only to lose the Super Bowl. We’ve listened to sports talk radio wonder how long he can play, how long he can be good, how long, how long, how long. I needed a break. How long, Oh Lord (Psalm 40), must we listen to stories about Tom Brady?

It’s March, and I guess I’m ready again. The…

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Inside the Bounds of Grace: The Not-So-Lovely Love Story of David and Michal

Inside the Bounds of Grace: The Not-So-Lovely Love Story of David and Michal

This piece was written by Stephanie Matthiessen.

I’m writing a novel about Michal, the first wife of David and the daughter of Saul. Don’t worry, no one else has heard of her either, unless maybe they’re from Israel. Someone recently asked me what the book is about and, instead of giving my usual, vague, I’d-rather-not-say answer, I actually told them. Spoiler: it’s about forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness. I added the qualifier for fear one would assume it’s about personal atonement and self-improvement. It’s not. It’s not a self-help book in disguise. It’s a love story.

Michal and, of course, her much more famous…

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Hopelessly Devoted: ‘Grace At Work’ – James Chapter One Verse Seventeen

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Grace is not always guaranteed to work on the horizontal plane — i.e. as we attempt to steward it in the midst of our relationships with one another. We can however be sure that grace is always at work. We don’t get to define what this has to look like. We don’t always get the privilege of discerning its results or activity. In fact, grace specializes in disappointing and confounding our every expectation of what God ‘should be’ and what His people ‘should be’.

You’re free, though you often feel like a slave. You’re forgiven, though you often feel the weight of judgment. You’re victorious, though you often feel like a chump. The gospel confronts our self-righteousness and confirms the righteousness of Jesus as being ours. We walk by faith, not by sight…yes, but rarely in an experiential or functional manner. All we have ultimately is the faithful witness (James 1:17) of the indwelling Spirit bringing us back to a ridiculous, impossible-to-believe verdict: “You are absolved.”

The Crown, Season 2: Reconciliation and Her Majesty

The Crown, Season 2: Reconciliation and Her Majesty

This piece contains possible spoilers from the Netflix Original Series The Crown, Season 2, Episode 6. 

The second season of The Crown is just as beautiful as the first, and more complex. As we watch the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip ever-so-slightly unravel at the seams and Princess Margaret’s love life take dizzying turns, the Queen still has to hold down her day job, which is to rule over the British Empire.

Peter Morgan, the creator of The Crown, was recently interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” NPR summarized their conversation:

He says, “Let’s just stop thinking about them as a…

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Pity, Compassion, and the Emotional Prison Where She Kept Her Parents

Pity, Compassion, and the Emotional Prison Where She Kept Her Parents

To be loved is to be known, the saying goes. Or as Tim Kreider memorably puts it, “if we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” This is what we believe makes God’s love so miraculous, so fundamentally gracious.

Of course, when it comes to other human beings, this kind of thing is risky business. Because getting to know someone in all their unkempt reality, i.e., beyond the surface facsimile, often provokes a feeling opposite to love. The problem comes when we think we know someone fully but don’t, as is…

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The Gospel of Inclusion? An Assessment

The Gospel of Inclusion? An Assessment

Another provocative piece from Charis Hamiltonius:

If you hang around certain circles of the church long enough, it’s hard to miss the central role the idea of “inclusion” plays in their daily life and theology. Everyone, it is said, is included in the community, a maxim usually contrasted with more judgmental versions of Christianity. This takes a number of forms, depending on the setting, ranging from the selection of leaders to the practice of open communion (the forgoing of baptism as a necessary prerequisite to receive). God accepts everyone, and perhaps the worst thing one can be today is exclusive, a…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Chapter Forty-Four Verse Thirty-Four Through Chapter Forty-Five Verse One

Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Chapter Forty-Four Verse Thirty-Four Through Chapter Forty-Five Verse One

This devotion was written by Will McDavid:

“For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.” Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. (Genesis 44:34-45:1, NRSV)

A quick recap: after the hated and abandoned brother Joseph bizarrely finds favor with Pharaoh and assumes charge of all Egypt’s grain supply, his brothers are forced in hard…

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The Key That Unlocks Divine Favor

The Key That Unlocks Divine Favor

Been a little while since we posted an excerpt from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints). Here’s what we’ve been told is one of the more controversial passages, taken from the Forgiveness section: 

In those places where the Gospel speaks loudest we often find ourselves grasping most desperately for the law. How does this happen in regard to forgiveness? Our tactic is somewhat diagonal. We make ‘repentance’ a pre-condition for pardon. We insist that people express (sufficient) remorse before we let them off the hook. In this scenario, sorrow somehow activates absolution.

This not only undercuts the gravity of…

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The Road Back for Pariahs

The Road Back for Pariahs

It is hard to know how much of his tongue was in his cheek when Politico’s Jack Shafer penned “The Sex Pariah’s 6-Step Guide to Rehabilitation.” Yet the questions he addresses in the wake of Weinstein and Lauer and O’Reilly (and so many others) are both serious and timely: once the pariahs have served their punishments, “can we, should we, allow them to return to public life and their careers? And by what avenue?” The advice which follows is laced with explicit Catholic pastoral care and 12-Step best practices. They include unqualified confession, a season of retreat, submission to a…

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Accidental Killers and Cities of Refuge

Accidental Killers and Cities of Refuge

“There are self-help books written for seemingly every aberration of human experience: for alcoholics and opiate abusers; for widows, rape victims, gambling addicts, and anorexics; for the parents of children with disabilities; for sufferers of acne and shopping compulsions; for cancer survivors, asexuals, and people who just aren’t that happy and don’t know why. But there are no self-help books for anyone who has accidentally killed another person. An exhaustive search yielded no research on such people, and nothing in the way of therapeutic protocols, publicly listed support groups, or therapists who specialize in their treatment…”

Thus opens the second section…

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