I have always found the month of January to be a difficult month in a number of ways, as although the first month of the year heralds the beginning of a New Year, and for many the invested hope of better things to come, there is often a fair amount of anxiety that a growing number of people experience within the first few weeks of the year. Some of the anxiety is often born from the external pressure to strive to adhere to unrealistic New Year resolutions, that in some way speak of the growing need to establish a much more balanced and less complicated life.
My brother Edward lives in Seattle, on the West Coast of America and back in November he had shared about the growing number of billboards that were beginning to be placed around the City that encouraged much more of a Christian message to be used as an alternative New Year resolution for 2019.
However, the billboard that had caught my brother’s attention while driving to and from work throughout December was simply, ‘Let 2019 Be About Forgiveness’ Ephesians Chapter 4 Verse 32.
I have long been fascinated by the subject of forgiveness as the process to forgive, to be forgiven and to forgive ourselves can in some cases span a lifetime. While training for the ministry I read an article on forgiveness that served to further my understanding of the nature of forgiveness. In researching the subject of forgiveness the writer had spent a great deal of time in working with a number of people who had a wide experience in helping to guide people whose relationships had been fractured and broken due to the myriad of complexities that lie within the inability to forgive, and in turn to accept forgiveness. The writer offered the term, ‘the science of forgiveness,’ to explain the necessary conditions in order to be able to forgive, and that if the certain conditions are not in place and agreed by both parties then forgiveness will forever be out of reach and the process of healing will never reach fruition.
In my first pastorate, two sisters had fallen out more than forty years before my arrival, and although they had continued to attend the same church, they had sat a fair distance apart, and in all of that time, they had not exchanged one word. I had learned that over the years the clergy, eldership and members of the church family had tried to encourage ways in which reconciliation and forgiveness could be achieved between the sisters, but time after time the subject of forgiveness had sadly fallen on deaf ears. Over the years each sister had manipulated and cultivated an environment in which the church was split into two camps, and as a result, the church was an unhappy and unforgiving body of people.
As a new minister, I remember feeling challenged to try my best to salvage what little time the sisters had left in order for them to work towards creating the right conditions to embark on a journey of forgiveness. After a great deal of wrestling with each sister, feeling incredibly frustrated and wrestling with God, I remember when I arrived at the point when I became aware that what I needed to do was to leave the situation with God while continuing to support each sister.
There is a significant number of Biblical teaching on forgiveness, and over the years I have led a fair number of Bible studies on the subject, particularly with people who were desperate in their need to be truly forgiven or to be able to forgive.
In reflecting and praying on the billboard message to let 2019 be about forgiveness, I have thought about the many within our world that desperately need to be forgiven and those who would desperately want to forgive, but who need help in taking the first step. I have imagined what whole communities, towns, villages and Cities would be like if we turned to God and allowed God to work through us, to guide and to nurture us so that the seeds of forgiveness could be sown in our hearts and minds. I have encouraged a number of people to spend two minutes of every day this year in praying for people who live beside us, and those who may live on the other side of the world to begin a journey of forgiveness.
The Biblical text that will form the foundation for the beginning of the prayer for forgiveness in and throughout our world will be taken from Ephesians chapter 4, Verse 32 (And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.)
and Matthew 26, verse 28 (This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.) will be the text used to close each prayer, each day.
Every blessing, Rev Caroline Andrews