Sunday, April 26, 2009

fullness of forgiving love...

Forgiveness is not an easy thing. It is sometimes not easy to give, but even more difficult to receive. Henry Wilder Foote looks at the Divine Side of forgiveness in our continuing Sabbath Series on the Lord's Prayer:
"Forgiveness: The Divine Side"

What is history, but the proof of the unforgiving sequence of cause and effect ?
Hence arose the idea of Fate. Men felt the iron laws constraining them, deaf to their cries, ordaining their lot of loss and pain, crushing them, while still the sunshine laughed and the skies were blue above them and Nature disregarded their calamity though their hearts should break. The austere and antique genius of Michael Angelo has caught the spirit of the old fable, in his picture of the Parcae, where the three withered crones who spin and sever the thread of human life, sit in aged majesty of mien, and look forth from the canvas with stony, unsympathiz- ing eyes on the humanity whose destinies they shape, but do not share.

And yet, side by side with an iron fatalism has gasped for life the human sense of need. Men have felt the need of forgiveness, and their longing has cried out even to the heavens which they believed deaf, in all manner of uttered and inarticulate petitions. Their sins and their sorrows were stronger than all their theories of destiny; and, as so often, the warmth of the heart has melted the icy logic of the head.
It is therefore one of the most interesting of all questions which concern the relations between man and God, — what the nature of Divine forgiveness is, and how we are to believe in it

The only theory of the Divine forgiveness which will hold in face of the New Testament, or of a true idea of the nature of God as drawn from that of man, or of the moral law, or of the needs of our own souls, is that which makes forgiveness a part of God's fatherhood. His all- embracing love is the only thing which will break the stony silence of nature's unforgiving laws, or solve the riddles in which human ingenuity has involved the free grace of God.

The doctrine of God's forgiveness lies at the root of the religious life.
1. It gives a ground for hope, because it gives an opportunity to start anew, feeling that the future is not mortgaged beyond remedy to our error-laden past.
2. It gives a ground for faith, because it reveals to us a God whom we can trust and love. It makes repentance a stepping-stone to truer living, and prayer a real cry to one who really answers.
3. It takes hold on life itself, to make it divine by breathing into it the same spirit of forgiving love. Men have learned this hardest of all the graces by trying to imitate God. This is the spirit which glowed in the Christian martyrs. John Huber, a distinguished Huguenot galley-slave, has recorded the following experience: —
" We arrived one night at a little town, chained, my wife and my children with fourteen galley slaves. The priests canoe to us, offering freedom on condition that we abjured. We agreed to preserve a profound silence. After them came the women and children of the place, who covered us with mud. I made my little party fall on their knees, and we put up this prayer in which all the fugitives joined: ' Gracious God, who seest the wrongs to which we are hourly exposed, give us strength to support them, and to forgive in charity those who wrong us. Strengthen us from good even unto better.'"

"From good even unto better." This is the aspiration of the human soul. And from better unto best we still look up adoring at the perfect fullness of forgiving love which is in the bosom of our Heavenly Father. When the Pharisees heard Jesus, they said, "Who is this, that forgiveth sins also ?" But all men since have recognized in this very thing the sure evidence that he is the Son of God. And so far as we are touched with his spirit, we shall rise into his likeness, and " forgive, as we also are forgiven."

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