Tag Archive: forgiveness


yesterday

Today is known as the Day of Reconciliation. Although for most South Africans i imagine it is just seen as a public holiday.

Someone’s status caught my attention this morning and got me thinking, ‘Imagine if in South Africa we started celebrating Day of Reconciliation in the way Americalanders celebrated Thanksgiving?’ – now, as always, any analogy is as strong as the point it is trying to make so let’s just ignore all the negative aspects linked to Thanksgiving for a moment and focus on the idea of sitting around a table together and looking back and giving thanks.

DAY OF RECONCILING

mandela 2

This would be an amazing day to grab hold of for families. Sitting with children and explaining to them the significance of reconciliation and then modelling it to them.

But take a minute right now. Is there anyone that comes to mind who you are holding unforgiveness towards at this moment? Maybe it was something that someone said or did to you this week? Maybe earlier this year? Or perhaps something a little more deeper and more painful that happened a few years ago that you have not been able to let go of?

Is there anyone that comes to mind who you are holding unforgiveness towards at this moment?

Alternatively, it might be someone who is holding on to unforgiveness against you. Jesus had some crazy unconventional teaching to give to that scenario, which turns the whole thing on its head.

altar

Is there someone like that who comes to mind for you? You can’t make anyone forgive you, but you can open the door to reconciliation and invite them inside. Do whatever you can do to create the bridge and perhaps give them a nudge to step over? What is radical about Jesus’ statement is that He invites us to interrupt worship to go and do it. “Don’t pretend you are all close to God and stuff if there is broken relationship with you and someone else. Fix that and then come and hang with Me.”

START AT THE MIRROR

mandela

It’s often easier to see fault in the other person. You’d think Mandela might have been someone who would have been justified being pissed off with a lot of people, but he chose to look inwardly and make sure he was right inside, for the greater good of the nation.

Each of us need to stand in front of the mirror and ask where we need to change. This is something that should be happening on a more regular basis for sure, but imagine if on one day every year, every person in the country took this seriously and did a self-reflection and reached out to those who had hurt them and who they have offended.

Now this won’t obviously magically happen overnight, but how about you start as one person, as one family, as a group of friends, as a community to make something more significant of this day. Maybe today you just do something by yourself as it’s quite short notice, but plan to set aside The Day of Reconciliation in 2016 as something more significant?

As much as Jesus’ words were powerful, His example was more so. Regardless of who you might think He really was or what you believe about Him, much of His life and actions have been captured. One of the final statements He shouted out from the cross where he was being crucified in the most horrible way known to man at the time was the following:

forgive

If an innocent man who is being tortured and killed can have the attitude of Reconciliation for those doing the killing, then how much more can we do for those who have hurt us in smaller ways? Who have said things that caused offence? Or done things – or possibly not done things – which made us sad or angry or frustrated?

How about we claim the Day of Reconciliation as an actual thing we celebrate both in not having to go to work, but also in reaching out towards those where distance has been created?

Who is one person you need to begin this with? Please come back and let me know how it goes…

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blood brothers

This is a much longer extract from the book ‘Blood Brothers’ by Elias Chacour, which i do encourage everyone to read. Both as a glimpse into the Israel/Palestine history and situation, but also as a much deeper journey of faith and wrestling with ideas of God and kingdom.

This passage it helps to have read the rest of the book to understand the full story of, but a brief background is that Abu Mouhib is the policeman in the town, that the author is the new church leader in, and has a completely messed up with his three brothers and has for years. He also is not a big fan of the author.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

When I finally reached the home of Abu Mouhib, where the woman had been residing, I was shaking visibly. He hesitated a moment before allowing me to enter. He disliked me, I knew, though he did come to church on rare occasions. This was not the time to express personal dislikes, however, and he showed me to his mother’s sickroom.

Far into the dark morning hours, I sat with the dying woman, whispering a few timid words of comfort. Those years in seminary had failed to prepare me for this. In my sweating palm lay her tremulous, blue-veined hand. It was cold and curled up like an alabaster leaf. Her breathing came in rasps for an hour or so—and then it ceased. With icy fingers, I closed her eyes.

My legs were rubber when I told Abu Mouhib that his mother was dead. Trying the best I could to comfort, I offered to go and tell his three brothers. “They would like to come and see her, I’m sure.”

Abu Mouhib’s grieving features stiffened into a scowl. “No!”he shouted. “My brothers do not set foot in my house. If they dare to come here, you will have five funerals on your hands, because we will kill each other.”

A chill shook me. Even the death of their mother would not draw these brothers together. As I helped wrap the woman’s frail body, I grieved for her—for her sons, and for the whole village.

A gray, faint light lit the streets as I made my way back home. A deadening exhaustion stooped my shoulders. I wanted only to crawl into my Volkswagen and sleep for hours and hours. As I squeezed myself into the backseat, however, I felt a real ache of grief in my chest—grief and anger. Sleep would not come.

I lay there wrestling against the whole world of conflict that sprawled around me. In my head, I lunged at the four brothers in an angry conversation, telling them how disgusted I was at their behavior. Couldn’t they forgive each other now when they needed to honor their own mother?

And they were not the only ones I attacked. The image of the Responsible smirked at me in the half-light, and I flung hard words in his face. I railed at the priest who had stolen from the church; at fellow seminarians who had slandered all Palestinians, calling us “terrorists”; at seminary professors; at the principal who had punished me at the school in Nazareth.

Another image appeared vividly . . . a military policeman towering over a small boy, whipping him with a stick . . . I heard cries . . . my own voice . . . I was picking up a stick, beating, smashing the man’s head until he fell unconscious . . . bleeding. . . . There were tanks on the hills of Biram . . . explosions . . . our homes stood fast while the tanks blew apart . . . and the agonized bodies of soldiers. . . .

Then I knew.

Silent, still, I lay there, aware for the first time that I was capable of vicious, killing hatred. Aware that all men everywhere—despite the thin, polite veneer of society—are capable of hideous violence against other men. Not just the Nazis or the Zionists or the Palestinian commandos—but me. I had covered my hurts with Christian responses, but inside the anger had gnawed. With this sudden, startling view of myself, a familiar inner voice spoke firmly, without compromise: If you hate your brother, you are guilty of murder. Now I understood.

I was aware of other words being spoken. A Man was dying a hideous death at the hands of His captors—a Man of Peace, who suffered unjustly—hung on a cross. Father, forgive them, I repeated. And forgive me, too.

In that moment, forgiveness closed the long-open gap of anger and bitterness inside me. From the time I had been beaten as a small boy, I had denied the violence inside me. Now . . . the taming hand that had taught me compassion on the border of West Germany had finally stilled me enough to see the deep hatred in my own soul.

Physically and emotionally spent, I fell asleep. Later that morning, I woke with a new, clean feeling of calmness. The change that had begun on my visit to the Mount of Beatitudes was complete.

I knew what I must do in Ibillin.

My year and a half of home visits and the sisters’months of ministrations had made a dent—a small dent—in reuniting the believers of Ibillin. Few attended the church regularly, and walls of hostile silence remained firm. However, most of them would not think of missing services during the Christmas and Easter seasons, coming to be comforted by familiar customs, not out of desire for true spiritual renewal. True to the pattern, attendance increased markedly on the first Sunday of Lent, growing each week as Easter approached.

On Palm Sunday, every bench was packed. Nearly the entire congregation had come, plus a few other villagers whom I had invited. The weather that morning was balmy, with a warm, light wind straying through the streets, so I left the doors wide open, hoping that passersby might be attracted by our singing. When I stood up, raising my hands to signal the start of the service, I was jolted by stark, staring faces.

Looks of open hostility greeted me. The Responsible’s faction was clustered on one side of the church, almost challenging me with their icy glares. Indifferently, those whom the Responsible had ostracized sat on the opposite side. I was amazed to see Abu Mouhib, the policeman, perched in the very front row with his wife and children. In each of the other three quadrants of the church, as distant from one another as possible, were his three brothers. The sisters, I could tell, felt the tension, too, for their faces were blanched. I rose and began the first hymn, certain that no one would be attracted by our pathetically dismal singing. I thought, with sadness, of the battle lines that were drawn across the aisles of that sanctuary. And nervously, I hoped that no one would notice the odd lump in the pocket beneath my vestment.

What followed was undoubtedly the stiffest service, the most unimpassioned sermon of my life. The congregation endured me indifferently, fulfilling their holiday obligation to warm the benches. But then, they did not suspect what was coming. At the close of the liturgy, everyone rose for the benediction. I lifted my hand, my stomach fluttering, and paused. It was now or never.

Swiftly, I dropped my hand and strode toward the open doors at the back of the church. Every eye followed me with curiosity. I drew shut the huge double doors, which workmen had rehung for me. From my pocket, I pulled a thick chain, laced it through the handles and fastened it firmly with a padlock.

Returning to the front, I could almost feel the temperature rising. Or was it just me? Turning to face the congregation, I took a deep breath.

“Sitting in this building does not make you a Christian,”I began awkwardly. My voice seemed to echo too loudly in the shocked silence. The sisters’eyes were shut, their lips moving furiously in prayer. “

You are a people divided. You argue and hate each other—gossip and spread malicious lies. What do the Moslems and the unbelievers think when they see you? Surely that your religion is false. If you can’t love your brother that you see, how can you say you love God who is invisible? You have allowed the body of Christ to be disgraced.”

Now the shock had turned to anger. The Responsible trembled and seemed as though he was about to choke. Abu Mouhib tapped his foot angrily and turned red around the collar. In his eyes, though, I thought I detected something besides anger.

Plunging ahead, my voice rose. “For many months, I’ve tried to unite you. I’ve failed, because I’m only a man. But there is someone else who can bring you together in true unity. His name is Jesus Christ. He is the one who gives you power to forgive. So now I will be quiet and allow Him to give you that power. If you will not forgive, we will stay locked in here. You can kill each other and I’ll provide your funerals gratis.”

Silence hung. Tight-lipped, fists clenched, everyone glared at me as if carved from stone. I waited. With agonizing slowness, the minutes passed. Three minutes . . . five . . . ten . . . I could hear, outside, a boy coaxing his donkey up the street and the slow clop-clop of its hooves. Still no one flinched. My breathing had become shallow, and I swallowed hard. Surely I’ve finished everything, I chastised myself, undone all these months of hard work with my – Then a sudden movement caught my eye.

Someone was standing. Abu Mouhib rose and faced the congregation, his head bowed, remorse shining in his eyes. With his first words, I could scarcely believe that this was the same hard-bitten policeman who had treated me so brusquely.

“I am sorry,” he faltered. All eyes were on him. “I am the worst one of all. I’ve hated my own brothers. Hated them so much I wanted to kill them. More than any of you, I need forgiveness.”

And then he turned to me. “Can you forgive me, too, Abuna?”

I was amazed! Abuna means “our father,” a term of affection and respect. I had been called other things since arriving in Ibillin, but nothing so warm.

“Come here,” I replied, motioning him to my side. He came, and we greeted each other with the kiss of peace. “Of course I forgive you,” I said. “Now go and greet your brothers.”

Before he was halfway down the aisle, his three brothers had rushed to him. They held each other in a long embrace, each one asking forgiveness of the others.

In an instant, the church was a chaos of embracing and repentance. Cousins who had not spoken to each other in years wept together openly. Women asked forgiveness for malicious gossip. Men confessed to passing damaging lies about each other. People who had ignored the sisters and me in the streets now begged us to come to their homes. Only the Responsible stood quietly apart, accepting only stiffly my embrace. This second church service— a liturgy of love and reconciliation—went on for nearly a full hour.

In the midst of these joyful reunions, I recalled Father’s words when he had told us why we must receive the Jews from Europe into our home. And loudly, I announced: “We’re not going to wait until next week to celebrate the Resurrection. Let’s celebrate it now. We were dead to each other. Now we are alive again.”

I began to sing. This time our voices joined as one, the words binding us together in a song of triumph: “Christ is risen from the dead. By His death He has trampled death and given life to those in the tomb.”

Even then it did not end. The momentum carried us out of the church and into the streets where true Christianity belongs. For the rest of the day and far into the evening, I joined groups of believers as they went from house to house throughout Ibillin. At every door, someone had to ask forgiveness for a certain wrong. Never was forgiveness withheld. Now I knew that inner peace could be passed from man to man and woman to woman.

As I watched, I recalled, too, an image that had come to me as a young boy in Haifa. Before my eyes, I was seeing a ruined church rebuilt at last— not with mortar and rock, but with living stones.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

[Chapter 10, Tough Miracles]

[For more from Blood Brothers, click here]

antjie

So i know i said i would share three sections of the book ‘Begging to be Black’ by Antjie Krog that i have just finished, but i couldn’t not share this bonus piece [which EVERYONE should read, regardless of where you are from] and then you really should get hold of the book, because four short extracts do not do it justice… but this is powerful stuff, prepare yourself…

This is from a trip Antjie did to Turkey and more particularly, Istanbul:

‘We walk down the street toward a recommended place called Güllüoğlu, established many years ago and still using a recipe for baklava, so we are told, brought from Damascus.4

‘Why does it sound so wonderful, a recipe from Damascus?’ I ask.4’The place of revelation, scales falling from Saul’s eyes,’ suggests the professor, as we pass a large demonstration taking place under massive police presence.

‘It is such a relief that my country has said sorry,’ he says. ‘At last the discussions about reparation have begun.’

‘It somehow seems to me that it is easier to say sorry when you are in power and in the majority. It is very confusing with us. Instead of whites being asked to pay back, they were asked to step back. Instead of being taxed, they’re being blamed.’

The baklva is indeed an experience worth a thesis. Three small wedges arrive on a plate. After the first mouthful we fall into sublime silence – no talking, no academic thinking, only deep, intense, empirical abandon. Our tongues verify the menu: the syrup of Turkish baklava is made not from honey but from special sugar; the pistachios super-finely grated on top were handpicked in Barak; the butter in the pastry comes from Şanlıurfa. It is sheep’s milk butter ‘made clear’ in the heat of the sun.

We sit enraptured. Speechless we drink the Turkish coffee. The money we hand over seems immaterial. The professor goes to a bookshop and I rush back for my panel discussion with a Turkish journalist and a Greek journalist who uncovered mass graves and atrocities on Cyprus. Their governments don’t like this debunking of ‘official explanations’, ad the two journalists are being harassed in terrible ways. Both of them look anxious and stressed out.

My input starts with a quote from Cynthia Ngewu, one of the mothers of the Gugulethu Seven, which I used in my book about the Truth Commission:

This thing called reconciliation… if I am understanding it correctly… if it means this perpetrator, this man who killed [my son] Christopher Piet, if it means he becomes human again, this man, so that I, so that all of us, get our humanity back… then I agree, then I support it all.

‘Let me set out what this amazing formulation says: it says that Mrs Ngewu understood that the killer of her child could, and did, kill, because he had lost his humanity; he was no longer human. Second, she understood that to forgive him would open up the possibility for him to regain his humanity, to change profoundly. Third, she understood also that the loss of her son affected her own humanity; her humanity had been impaired. Fourth and most important, she understood that if indeed the perpetrator felt driven by her forgiveness to regain his humanity, then it would open up the possibility of the restoration of her own full humanity.

‘In the TRC final report, Mrs Ngewu’s response on prison sentences for the perpetrators reads as follows: “I think that all South Africans should be committedto the idea of re-accepting these people back into the community. We do not want to return the evil that the perpetrators committed to the nation. We want to demonstrate a humanness [ubuntu] towards them, so that [it] in turn may restore their own humanity.”

‘This was being said at the end of a century dominated by revenge: that to punish would be to perpetuate inhumanity. Analysing the sentences in TRC testimonies about forgiveness, one picks up how both literate and illiterate black people formulated forgiveness in terms of this interconnected humaneness.

‘What I am trying to say is that Christianity (or human rights, restorative justice, or, for that matter, the theology of Tutu and the politics of Mandela) is not simply linked to, or an add-on to, a kind of African interconnectedness, but is in fact imbedded therein.

Interconnectedness forms the interpretive foundation of southern African Christianity, and it is this foundation that enabled people to reinterpret tired and troubled Western concepts such as forgiveness, reconciliation, amnesty and justice in new and usable ways.

‘In other words: these concepts moved across cultural borders and were infused and energised by a world view of interconnectedness-towards-wholeness to assist people to break out of their past and make a new future possible.

‘So what would be the difference? Christian forgiveness says: I forgive you because Jesus has forgiven me. The reward will be in heaven. “African” forgiveness says: I forgive you so that you can change and I can begin to heal and all of us can become the selves that we were meant to be. The reward is here on earth.

‘Forgiving is therefore never separate from reconciliation, but the first personal step. It demands a response from the forgiven one, to change, to become human, to share. Forgiveness is thus not an uninformed embrace of evil, it is not a miracle brought about by an individual, but an interconnected act that makes a changed relationship possible, a future, a new way of being.’

But I see the audience sitting in front of me: a fierce gleam of hurt, anger and bitterness in their eyes. The world will never learn anything from Africa, my friend Sandile Dikeni once said. We are just something cute, a mask to hang in a television lounge, but we will never be recognised for having contributed something worthwhile to the world.

begging

[To return to the beginning of this series and read some other powerful extracts from this book, click here]

There is a tragic moment in the book where Benjamin Pogrund is refused the opportunity to speak at Robert Sobukwe’s funeral due to some angry incited politicised youth, as it seems like he would have been a natural choice and even Sobukwe’s family had extended the invitation for him to speak. The speech he had planned though was published in Reality later that year:

Robert Sobukwe. My brother and my friend. 

It did not matter that our skins were of different colours; that we came from such different backgrounds – he from a woodcutter’s home in this village, the descendant of people who have spent centuries in the African continent; me a first generation African, from a middle class home in Cape Town. It did not matter that we did not have the same father and mother. We grew to be brothers. Over a period of twenty years our relationship of love and caring developed and deepened.

That Bob Sobukwe saw me as his brother and that I saw him as my brother already tells a great deal about him and about the South Africa he believed in and wanted. A country where racism will be outlawed. 

Many words about the greatness of Bob Sobukwe are being spoken today. They are true words. Many wonderful words have been spoken about him since he passed away two weeks ago. They are true words.

It is tragic that, in his lifetime, so many in South Africa spurned him; that so much of what he had to offer us was suppressed and locked away – in Pretoria prison, on Robben Island prison, in confinement and banning in Kimberley.

But the test of a man can be seen in what he leaves behind him, in what he has left for us who remain in this world.

And we have from Bob Sobukwe that belief in South Africa of which I spoke earlier. One united South Africa, free of colour or tribal divisions. A South Africa devoted to justice and democracy for all its peoples, without totalitarianism, communism, or any other crushing of the human spirit. It was a dream in his lifetime; yet it is more than a dream for in it lies the future and the salvation of all of us. 

In all the years of his life, Bob Sobukwe did not deviate a fraction from his belief and he always wanted it to come about in peace. 

Going closely with this, what we have from him is a love of people.

He practised this in his life to an extent that was incredible to behold. Even for his oppressors, for those who held him captive, there was no bitterness or hatred. Only a sympathy for them, a pity for them because of the way they behaved.

When we were together, it was I who would express the resentment, the anger, at the way he was treated. He would simply be amused, tolerant about those who had done humiliating things to him. 

I would feel ashamed and embarrassed, as a person and as a South African, about the things that were inflicted on him – whether the cruelty of forcibly keeping him year after year on Robben Island  in isolation, or the ugliness of the apartheid system in forcing us, when I visited him in Kimberley, to go and drive out among the thorn bushes to see shelter from the sun, drinking our cool drinks and eating our pies. It was one of our moments of joy when, after several years of doing this, we discovered a cafe that actually did not mind if we sat down together to share a pot of tea. Provided that we sat in the black section of the cafe.

For Bob Sobukwe these were things to be taken in his stride. To him, they were examples of the weakness of his oppressors, of the desperate and ugly things that they had to do to maintain themselves. 

He rose above it all; he was the giant; those who tried to debase him were themselves debased. 

Whenever, during the dark times of his life, I went to give him comfort, I came away amazed. Because it was not I that gave him comfort, but it was he who gave me comfort. 

And even in the last few months of his life; he could not but know then that it was the bannings enforced on him, confining him to Kimberley, which had prevented him from travelling freely to obtain the specialised medical attention which could perhaps have prolonged his life. Even then he did not lash out, as a lesser person would so naturally have done. 

Yet none of this, as we well know, meant that there was any trace of weakness in Bob Sobukwe. For what he has also given us is the example of his strength and courage in sticking to what he believed. He applied this to a super-human extent. He asked people to do only what he himself was prepared to do. He was the first to lead the way – and to accept the consequences of what he did.

Many years ago I shared in his dilemma when Rhodes University offered him a full-time job as lecturer. At that stage, Bob was what was called a ‘language assistant’ at Witwatersrand University. Now he had the chance of a well-paid, status position to do the teaching and the writing that he loved. But he turned it down. He decided that his task was to give himself to his people. And he stuck to that unwaveringly to the end of his life, never regretting, never complaining, never losing his faith in his mission and in God’s purpose. 

It goes on a little more and then ends with this tribute:

I grieve for my brother. South Africa grieves for its father, for this son of Africa. 

Bob Sobukwe has passed away. But he lives. He is belief, love, hope – and a great gift to all who knew him or of him.’

[From Chapter 22: Robert Sobukwe: How Can Man Die Better by Benjamin Pogrund]

tomb

[To read the next part looking at if there can be such a thing as black racism, click here]

i don’t, as a rule, share anonymous posts… however, this IS my blog and so i make up the rules and figured this one deserved an exception.

It is a post from a friend of mine who scribed a very different angled approach to the whole masturbation/pornography struggle that so many of us have or had and i thought it might be helpful, or at the very least, interesting:

Three Quick Awkward Memories:

1. In my teens my Dad used to stand in front of the TV when any potential nudity potentially happened to appear. This was very frustrating, and also had the effect, of course, of feeding my curiosity (in the days before the Instant Lust Gratification Finder known as the Internet). And the effect of making me think that it was inherently wrong/naughty/sinful to be even wanting to look at women’s bodies. And finally the effect of causing me to develop my very own DIY secret nudity search antennae. I don’t doubt that my Dad wanted the best for me though.

2. As a committed, born again christian at bible college I made a very public and tearful confession during a 3 day period of prayer and fasting. I had visited a blue cinema and watched what would now be described as a soft porn movie. After my confession a few guys came up to me (privately) and said how fantastic it was that I had confessed and how it had helped them. Personally I didn’t feel great after my confession. Just a little bit empty and embarrassed. However, I believed very much in openness and honesty, and I didn’t want to live a lie.

3. Later as a married man I confessed to my wife and to the man who married us, that I had fantasised about his daughter.

I’m only telling you this stuff to demonstrate that I am a fully qualified male, pornographic/masturbation struggler. It hopefully makes the rest of what I say make sense. For my part I don’t recommend revealing this sort of information publicly as a rule, unless you’ve got a fairly healthy sense of who you are. And even then…if you feel the need to talk about this kinda thing better do it with people who(m)  you know and trust. Confession can sometimes be a way of beating yourself with a very big stick.  Maybe I’m still doing that. I’m not 100% sure.

And now, here is a letter I found recently, sent from God to my younger self. I regret not reading it at the time.

Dear Hector (Name invented for anonymity)

You want to serve me with all your heart and soul, and you believe that I love you completely and forgive you totally. But it’s not always easy for you to get beyond the “what you want and believe” to the “who you are and what you do”. I want to tell you what I think. Because seeing yourself the way I see you can only help things, right?

Firstly, I can tell you that I am interested in the means AND the ends. In the ongoing process of you becoming the best, most complete Hector that you can become. And it is not in your knowledge right now to know who that person is.

Secondly, I think we can agree that I made sex AND I know your future. Some good news is that you are going to have a great wife (though it won’t ALWAYS be clear to you  how great she is). And you will have some great sex. And some good sex. And some sex. This will be an important part of your life. But only a PART of your life.

Thirdly, you are going to continue to struggle with Sex and the Art of Loving. You will separate sex and love in your mind far too often. You will not know a once and for all “victory” in this area (can you live with that possibility?). You will continue to WASTE time (yes, wasting time is the most serious of your offences in this matter) on bad habits. Habits that do nothing for you other than act as a kind of unnecessary release valve despite there being other, more satisfying, less self-hatred inducing, release valves available. And this waste of time will hurt YOU far more than anyone else.

But, and this is a HUGE but. You believe I’ve forgiven you right? Well, as it happens, I really have. Not only for the mess ups you’ve already made, but for all the ones you’re going to make. So that “Worst Of” video you’ve got running in your head, the one about what’s happening inside your head, the one that Me, You, And Everybody Else is going to watch come The Day. It’s NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Because I love you like the best dad or mum you could imagine. I spend the vast majority of my time getting excited about all the good things you’ve done. Or try to do. I spend a tiny bit of time getting mildly frustrated that you spend a bot too much of your time either: 1. Wasting your time searching for tiredness/anger/sadness/stress relieving unsatisfactory orgasmic “fixes”, then 2. Wasting your time worrying about it, and 3. Wasting your time talking about it.

And now  I’ve wasted enough time talking about it too. But I care, so it was necessary. Now clear off, relax, and get on with:

trying to make the world a better place; being honest; making people laugh; making them groan; making ‘em think; making music; being creative with words; being generous; loving that great wife you’re going to be getting; wearing your heart on your sleeve with your future kids; appreciating other people and nature and good things; crying at bad things; saying sorry when you hurt people you love; taking responsibility for your actions; dreaming of a better way; speaking out for justice; protecting the weak and the vulnerable; being weak and vulnerable; being strong; pursuing truth; being a peacemaker; turning the other cheek; loving your neighbour…

…as you love yourself. I could go on. Really, I could. But for now I think that’s enough.

Lots of Love from

The One who loves you far BETTER than you love yourself.

as i stand so close to the flames

that the tiny hairs on my arms start to catch alight

filling my nostrils with that pungent, burning hair smell

i catch the silhouette of my reflected outline

quietly nodding my silent assent

to those who by their righteous actions tonight

have ensured that this clinic’s business

for the immediate future at least

has been violently aborted

 

as i stand to the far edge of the back of this lively and passionate crowd

i am caught up by the exuberance with which our leaders

are delivering today’s heartfelt message of righteous anger and God’s judgment

on those who would exchange normal relations

for these abominations

not quite confident that God does indeed hate fags as has been so eloquently declared

through the intimacy of a well-intended loud speaker

or the letters lovingly painted onto an otherwise pure white poster

i at least choose to hold my focus

on all those who will be set free

as a result of us gaily presenting our well-crafted sermon

as we came out here today

Lovingly Gesturing Biblical Truths

 

back at home i spend some time online

catching up on the news

all the time dodging the vitriolic and caustic comments

of fellow christian brothers and sisters

resolutely aligning themselves with either camp

and how could you possibly hold THAT opinion

if you have given any attention at all to THIS specific verse?

(“You fool!”… understood.)

 

another moment, yet another person caught in a crime

this time i bend down to pick up my stone

but am stopped in my tracks

by the sound of his voice

speaking these words

so lovingly

‘let the person who is without sin throw the first stone.’

 

and i pause for just a minute

 

as i think it over to myself…

a ticking watch nervously counts down this moment of interruption

my heavy breathing bears testimony to the wrestling that’s going on within my head

as i roll his words around in my mind, this way and that way, looking for the answer

but then suddenly it comes to me in a flash

as i remember that he has already paid for my sin

when he died on the cross

he took all my guilt and shame

and the sin penalty that should have been mine to pay

and he paid for it in my place

and so that makes me sin-free, right?

 

that makes me the one able to throw the first stone…

just like he said.

 

my hand finds a suitably jagged edged piece of stone

closes tightly around it

i can feel its rough edges digging into my skin

i stand to my feet in a single motion

powered up by all the holy righteous anger i can muster

and with every muscle in my body giving assent to my actions

i hurl that stone with all my might and watch as it hits its target

watch as you slump quickly to the ground

 

and, as if the dam wall has been burst

i watch as my just action unleashes the rest of the frenzied crowd

some who had already started to let their personalised rocks fall to the ground

 

again and again the rocks smash against their intended victim

your cries have long since passed

blood and bits of skin and bone fly hideously around

and within moments you are no longer a person

but a grotesque mass of broken body and blood

 

broken body

and blood?

 

as if in a pitch black tunnel just noticing a faint hint of a light up ahead

something starts to swirl within my mind

a recollection, a mass of thoughts, something is trying to be heard

and i try to focus in on what is being said, as my stomach fights against gagging from the smell that is rising up from your body

your dead body

broken by me… broken for me?

no, broken by me.

 

i glance up.

struggling to see clearly with these beams of wood protruding from each one of my eyes

i manage to finally catch a glimpse of him

his face displaying so obviously that this is not the way he was hoping it would end

as if something has gone wrong

gone horribly wrong

but what is it? i did what you said. i did what you have to have wanted. right?

 

and there it is

off to the side, faint and very much in the distance

but there is no mistaking the call of the farm bird sounding the beginning of a new day

or is it the end of one?

nope, there it is again.

and one more time.

 

i realise that the first crow has labelled me a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal

the second told me i am nothing

the third plays out that i have gained nothing

all three signifying that i have failed in this,

in this, my virtuous enacting of your justice

and if that is true, if i have failed in this

that surely means that no part of this was truly Love

 

what is the first commandment? obey the rules

what is the most important? don’t step outside of the lines

what is the gospel? don’t do this long and complicated list of things

GODHATESFAGSGODHATESPEOPLEWHOHAVEABORTIONSGODHATESTERRORISTSGODHATES

wait, what?

 

 

 

 

i stand close to the flames

trying to massage some warmth back into my hands

no-one needs to come up to me and ask if i know Him?

i know my actions have already answered that one

and as i catch my reflection in a nearby piece of glass

i notice the flames, licking at my feet.

 

I have just finished reading the biography of Archbishop Desmond Tutu from  South Africa and this paragraph from right at the end of the book stood out powerfully for me. The idea that it is both those who commit violence and attrocity and those who are the victims of it who suffer as a result of it. Both are in need of great help:

tutuIf Tutu’s lifelong advocacy of justice was difficult, demanding, and contentious, then his vision for how to bring about reconciliation was surely more so. In his formulation, ubuntu-botho equips you to look at your torturers, to realise that they need your help and to stand ready to enable them to regain their humanity. Such a philosophy scandalizes the world. Yet, extraordinarily, it empowers the survivors of torture, for it enables them to take control of their lives, to take initiatives instead of remaining trapped in victimhood, waiting helplessly for the perpetrators to act. Thus ubuntu-botho gives contemporary, practical meaning to God’s forgiveness of the people of Israel recorded by the prophet Hosea, and to Christ’s words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” [Hosea 11.1-9, Luke 23.24] But ubuntu-botho does not allow perpetrators to escape the necessity of confessing and making restitution to survivors, since it places the needs of society – the restoration of relationship – at the heart of reconciliation. As Tutu once told a priest who challenged his views on the subject: “God’s gift of forgiveness is gracious and unmerited but you must be willing to… appropriate the gift.”

[from the biography ‘Desmond Tutu: Rabble-Rouser for Peace’ by John Allen]

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy similiar themed posts:

Forgiveness in under 50 words

How to condemn evil while loving evil people

I need to be stronger

https://brettfish.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/50-word-blog-post-following-jesus-means-forgiving-people/

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