Sometimes instead of a dialogue, where I talk and God gives understanding or mercy or something, I have a monologue with God. This is an heretical monologue that is ongoing. I don’t think I’ve finished talking, and God is surely not answering right now.
The sign on the Presbyterian (PCA) Church down the street says, “Does Jesus have the authority and is he willing to forgive your sins? Read Luke.XXX” After several days of reading the sign, I finally got as far as Luke, but I haven’t gotten the citation down yet.
My first impression was, “Well, sure. Jesus is God. God forgives.” Then I began thinking, and sometimes that is like playing without adult supervision, unsafe. Why does God forgive? Why do I need God to forgive me? Don’t I need those I wrong to forgive me? What does God have to do with this anyway? Never mind Jesus, what about God and forgiveness?
I don’t have any trouble with God as creator and sustainer. I don’t have any trouble with Jesus as God, incarnated here in this world to bring us to an awareness of the One God. I don’t have any trouble with gratitude for life, beauty, goodness, etc. I admit that being thankful for suffering is not my style, but that’s another monologue, I suspect.
I do have trouble with the necessity for God to forgive the harm we do to others – or, as my partner puts it – the joy we steal from others. Why is God the principal forgiver? Shouldn’t the people we harm be the principal forgivers? Yeah, yeah, I know. God created the world and I’m harming God’s creation and so I need God’s forgiveness for that harm. Too far removed for me right now. I can’t get past needing forgiveness from those I’ve harmed. And, we all know that forgiveness is not necessarily forthcoming. Sometimes others don’t forgive.
I do ask God to forgive me, but mostly that’s for me; so I won’t feel guilty any more about what I’ve done or not done. Mostly, that works. I repent. I promise not to do it again (even though I know I probably will). And, I feel forgiven. Is that God? Or is that just my need for expiation of guilt? Is that what God is all about? Gratitude for the good things and forgiveness for the bad? Somehow I don’t think I’ve got this right.
So, I guess I’m going to ponder on it some more, read some scripture – maybe even look up that Luke citation from the sign, and continue this monologue with God. Meanwhile, I fall back on my favorite Hebrew word, hesed, which means mercy, steadfast love, loving kindness.