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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

28 June 2017: Eleanor Thackrey, Steep Church

…to forgive, Divine?

There is nothing I like more than a good argument. An intellectual set-to gets my adrenalin pumping and my husband has often had to defuse situations in which I have become carried away at dinner parties complete with table thumping and other wild gesticulations. However, I was recently brought up short when my fellow combatant asserted that the idea of forgiveness was problematic. “Why?” I asked incredulously. “Because the word is too loaded with ‘religion’” he replied. And to my great chagrin I realised he was right.

To say the words “I forgive you” to the neighbour who borrowed, then wrecked, your lawnmower is likely to be interpreted as pious and, no doubt, smug. ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’ summarises the whole problem – to discuss or bestow forgiveness overtly in everyday contexts smacks of moral superiority that stems from the implied open lines of communication with God.

Of course in practice most of us forgive and are forgiven on a daily basis. For example, “Sorry I’m late” might get a “Don’t worry about it!” Or perhaps “Sorry my dog got sick on your white carpet” is hopefully met with “It doesn’t matter in the slightest!” While the word ‘forgiveness’ is indeed loaded with ideas of ‘divinity’ the act is also supremely human. Indeed, God sent Jesus, his only son, to live among us in all our messy humanity in order that we might be forgiven. Surely, when we hold up the mirror of forgiveness to others, we are also able to see ourselves full of our own faults and troubles, the very reason for which Jesus died on the cross. While the word ‘forgiveness’ is indeed loaded with religiosity, the act is the most supreme recognition of humanity and through this is a recognition of our proximity to God.

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