I was pondering this idea the other evening, having read something that made me think about living the kind of life that embraces forgiveness as a radical act. What would a life look like that was lived in such a way that you could never be offended – not because you were hugely insensitive, but because you had a generosity of spirit that meant that you could never be harmed by someone else’s actions?
Would this be a life worth living? I mean, it sounds ok, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not ok, maybe more incredibly difficult. It means surrendering your right to be offended. It means ‘turning the other cheek’ as a conscious and perhaps increasingly unconscious act. I guess it could cover the huge majority of everyday cases that we find ourselves in, when someone does something to offend our pride, our patience, our self-esteem…all of this would, with time, be possible…but what about the ‘big things’? What about when someone close to us is badly harmed? Would we end up trampled upon, our rights counting for nothing? Would evil triumph?
Perhaps that’s the point? What are our rights about, after all? What if a radical forgiveness driven submission creates a huge stumbling block to the transgressor, so much so that they are forever impacted, and thus transformed? Isn’t that one of the readings of Jesus’ ‘turn the other cheek’ narrative? What if evil can’t overcome radical generosity (grace)?
I think I need to think a bit more about this.
The scripture that keeps coming to mind is that where Jesus tells the story about the servant who is forgiven his debt, only to call in his debtors and treat them harshly, leading to his own eventual and complete demise (Matthew 18v21-35, I think). The point of the story seems pretty clear. Unless we can forgive, and forgive radically, even when it costs us deeply, we may not be able to embrace what forgiveness is truly about.
Pre-emptive forgiveness…living in such a way as to put aside our rights, our self-determination at times so as to model a different way of being. What would that look like in my life today, tomorrow…and on and on?