Lesson 5: Forgiveness

I am still amazed by what I learn when writing these studies. It’s hard to believe how much I missed in 86 years!

For instance, last week, while pondering the Buddhist image of compassion as longing for oneness, it became very apparent this makes forgiveness a necessity.

At about the same time, I found over and over again that contrary to common thought, God is described in the Old Testament as compassionate and forgiving. It is humans, not God, who are violent. This is implicit in the Noah and Abraham covenants and explicit in the Mosaic and Davidic ones. God by nature operates with loving kindness and mercy. He is even pictured as a father who punishes but never abandons, clearly an act of forgiveness.

And to my surprise, I found humans were hardly ever called to be forgiving in the Old Testament. It seems this was thought too much to ask of them.

All that changes when Jesus teaches us, if we expect God to forgive us, we have to forgive those who sin against us. Loving our enemies includes forgiving them even 70 times 7. That is taken for granted after Jesus shares his Spirit with us at Pentecost.

It about here that Paul warns us not to slip into nonsense about original sin. The idea is not how lousy we are, but the availability of new life.

Along those lines, I also became aware I now associate Jesus’ warning not to judge with a new image. While visiting Corning Glass Works about two years ago, I watched a marvelous demonstration of glass blowing. The blower said they were preparing a trophy for the NASCAR championship. I was completely enthralled by the art he had designed. Then as we were leaving, I saw out of the corner of my eye, someone who must have been an expert come out, examine the piece, apparently found it flawed, and broke it into pieces. My heart was wrenched watching him destroy a thing of beauty.

That now serves as my image of judgment. It is too painful for God or humans to do. Flawed humanity is still a thing of beauty. Of course, that does not preclude calling each other to account.

If religion is a response to suffering, then forgiveness is essential to healing this world and those around us.

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3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. paul wildman says:

    Loved this one – If religion is a response to suffering, then forgiveness is essential to healing this world and those around us. Fritz would you say suffering, and, mysterium? I would suggest suffering, mysterium and participation (viz. we participate with god in the creation). Would you agree? Other components? thx ciao paul

  2. Fritz Foltz says:

    I agree on all counts. I think participation in creation is implicit in the Old Testament but emerges much more explicitly in parts of Paul.

  3. Kerry Walters says:

    Your Corning Glass story is just perfect, Fritz. Thank you!


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