Lessons in Forgiveness

by Anna Hartge

I have challenged myself to re-read and meditate on the entire Bible through the lens of racial reconciliation. I know the dangers of taking scriptures out of context but I also believe God, through the Holy Spirit, can place one word in us that will transform our lives. To be reconciled with others – regardless of the reason for the brokenness – forgiveness is required. Racial reconciliation requires forgiveness. God is our ultimate example of forgiveness. 

Each of the Revised Common Lectionary readings this week focuses on the need for God’s forgiveness.

Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85  •  Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138  •  Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)  •  Luke 11:1-13

When I hear stories from men and women who still harbor deep anger and distrust because of the ways their ancestors were treated, although I feel a need to encourage them, my words do not seem power- packed enough, so more often than not, I just listen.

When I discuss race relations with friends and colleagues from diverse racial ethnic backgrounds, there is a range of emotions from hatred to confusion to compassion. Some people express hatred for others based on the way their ancestors were treated. Some express confusion because they themselves do not feel oppressed and they have not actually oppressed anyone. 

When I talk with young people who are often less conscious of the perils impact of the history of slavery and its lasting effects, I want to offer a history lesson. But in the final analysis, I feel compelled to offer words of encouragement grounded in the Word of the Lord which always points us to forgive as Christ has forgiven us and to love others as Christ has loved us.

It can be an overwhelming task to try to transform the lives of   those who are angry or feel helpless in the face of racism. Racism, racial prejudice, bigotry and hatred are alive in our society. But sometimes we must stand in the shoes of Abraham in Genesis 18: 25 -26 and seek God’s face on behalf of the people who are trying to live a righteous life – a life that respects all humanity.

Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell

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