The Politics of Forgiveness

Posted By Horizon Staff February 7th, 2013 in Opinions & Editorials : 0 COMMENTS

Wesley Zuidema
Staff Writer

I am convinced that Jesus’ message to humanity is not simply a call to spiritual reflection. It is full of political language and contains a call for social transformation. Jesus addressed a culture buzzing with resentment and bitterness and fear, a people driven by the currents of Jewish nationalism, and dared to tell them to forgive their enemies. He had the courage to speak truth to power, to tell the rich that God did not smile on the way their lifestyles supported and approved of injustice. He had the courage to stand up in front of a people who were poor, and hungry, and broken, and tell them to love those who hated them, an occupying army who had taken the Israel’s land and subjected its people to injustice. He dared to confront Roman injustice, yet he was in many ways a collaborator, who loved and healed the enemy.
I think that the genius of Jesus is that in asking us to forgive, he taught us to break self-reinforcing cycles of perception, in which we treat our enemies as enemies, who in turn have a reason to treat us as enemies, etc. When we love our enemies, we dare to envision them as friends. In the act of forgiveness, we invite people to become more than what they are now. We invite them to become a new creation, not only in our minds, but also in reality. Forgiveness makes space for transformation, for real growth. I am overwhelmed by the idea that the act of forgiveness, real, complete forgiveness, is itself an act of recreation – isn’t that the crux of what God did through Jesus? That while we were still sinners, he loved us and died for us? God dared to imagine us, not as we are, but as we might be, and this audacious belief led to a selfless act of love that opens the floodgates of possibility. We are made righteous in reality because he dared to extend the love that treats us as if we can be righteous, regardless of the cost to himself. Jesus followed his own message. He loved and forgave his enemies even as we killed him. And his love on the cross is an act of recreation, because his forgiveness re-imagines his killers as his bride. And he has called humanity, he has called his people, his disciples, to do likewise.
Today, we live in a world full of seemingly irresolvable conflict. Israel and Palestine, to name one that often comes to mind. And none of us has a right to demand that each side forgives, to demand love in response to violence and injustice. But I do know that as long as both sides cling tightly to their “rights,” there is little hope at all for a resolution, for peace, for reconciliation. But Jesus dared to believe his message of redemption and restoration. The real question is, “What do I believe? How do I choose to live?”

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