“Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12b)
Day 3 in our week of prayer for Christian Unity, we ponder the role of forgiveness. A large part of the gospel reports deal with that last week of Christ’s life. The last supper that we remember in our communion traditions, must have deeply impressed the followers. Jesus kneeling and washing the feet of Judas who would betray him, of Peter who would deny him, and of the others who would flee, this memory is boggling to our limited thinking. Without forgiveness relationships shatter and society polarizes. We know this. Today we inaugurate a new President as we stand in a country deeply divided. How will healing ever occur?
Paul admonishes the Colossians in chapter 3: 12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Today we will hear speeches about unity and pulling together to make our country better. For many there will be the terrible temptation to retreat in bitterness and cynicism. For others it will be a call of victory.
I love Walter Wangaard’s discussion of forgiveness in his book As for Me and My House. Forgiveness does not deny differences. Forgiveness is not a promise to forget that which has scarred us. Forgiveness is not acting our way into a new way of feeling. Forgiveness comes as we look past ourselves to the cross where we see love lived out. Christ loved us while we are sinners and loved us knowing we will fall short but that love still washes our feet and walks with us, giving us the strength to heal. As we watch all the ceremonies today and listen to all the commentators and hear all the theories of how life will unfold in the coming days, may we also keep our hearts on the cross and its deep reminder that the way forward comes with forgiveness and foot washing.