And this was joined to my reflections on some situations at work, and BLM and the riots, and the racists who are opposed to BLM, and the people who refuse to wear masks because it “infringes on their freedom.” There are a lot of power struggles going on. There are people in power, or who are used to having a privileged position, who feel threatened.
And when combining all of these thoughts with that sermon, this song came to mind. I didn’t know why at the time, but I listened to it again.
And I had an epiphany. Forgiveness isn’t about you, it’s about me.
And people being racist, bigoted, disrespectful, dismissive, mean, vulgar, evil… whatever… that’s about them, not me.
Me being forgiving is about me, not them. It is my response, my choice, my practice, my discipline… it is not about their change.
And my forgiveness does not absolve. It does not exonerate. And God’s forgiveness is not the end of the story for me either. Being forgiven isn’t the last step on the journey, it’s one of the first. That was the other part of my epiphany last weekend:
What God wants from us is not actually perfection. Not right this moment, anyways. The fact that we’re not currently perfect means that we have fallen short and missed the mark, but it doesn’t mean that God is apart from us.
What God wants is repentance. He wants us to try to improve. He wants us to turn to Him.
28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
31 “When anyone wrongs their neighbor and is required to take an oath and they come and swear the oath before your altar in this temple, 32 then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.
33 “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their ancestors.
35 “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance.
37 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, 38 and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— 39 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart), 40 so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.
41 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.
44 “When your people go to war against their enemies, wherever you send them, and when they pray to the Lord toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name, 45 then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.
46 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; 47 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 50 And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their captors to show them mercy; 51 for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
52 “May your eyes be open to your servant’s plea and to the plea of your people Israel, and may you listen to them whenever they cry out to you.1 Kings 8:28-52 — New International Version
To the oppressed… the fault is with the oppressor. It’s about them and their sin. It’s not about you. Just like our forgiving someone else is all about us and our heart, someone else’s lack of forgiveness or kindness is about them and their sin.
I don’t know, but I take comfort in that. I hear, “None of this has been about you,” and I feel like the “you” in that sentence is both me and the other person. The wrongs done to me… it’s not about me.
But my choice to forgive… that’s not about you.
None of us earn forgiveness, not from God and not from each other. It must be given freely, not because of the other person–it’s not about them–but because of us.
And consequently, the only way we get out of conflict is for all of us–everyone involved in the conflict–to look to our own hearts and repent. (Some just have a lot more repenting to do.)