“...and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:9-11
A shrug of the shoulders, the trite mummer of “Oh, its ok.” – these embarrassed and passing gestures are so often what accompany our practice of forgiveness. With these socially acceptable words and movements we confine the gift of forgiveness into a controllable exchange, nothing more than a polite handshake. However, the forgiveness of the cross comes from a darker, more powerful and more hopeful place than a shoulder shrug.
After two years of living in an environment of anger (his), shame (mine), violence and fear – I prepared to leave a darkened corner of my world. It took two more years before I was ready to share and as I poured my heartbreak out to a trusted pastor I heard him say, “Of course it hurts, forgiveness so often does.” I was stunned by his statement and disturbed by how true it felt in my very core. Had I shrugged by shoulder at every offense I would still be in that former place, leaving was a form of forgiveness. Leaving was a way of saying that there was something more life-giving for us all, a healthier way of being. It was in leaving that I finally experienced that new life God promises and extends to every person – even the angry, even the shameful.
When we simply shrug our shoulders we are saying that whatever brokenness that exists is ok, whatever hurt that has scarred us (or others) is ok and that ok-ness will stay with us. The forgiveness extended to us by God is so different from the shoulder shrug, for when God forgives us there is a swift and powerful movement away from what as been. A movement just as Jesus said to the women “Go...away from the sin”. God washes us (not always on the gentle cycle) and transforms us so that we can move forward in a different way. Forgiveness is not a passive, gentle force in our relationship with God and one another – rather, forgiveness is a bull dozer that clears the way for newness of life and healthier ways of being human!