Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation

Yesterday I was driving in the usual “to work” traffic. It was raining and cloudy, which made it just dangerous enough that we were all going a bit slower than normal. I could see behind me, there was one individual who was weaving their way from lane to lane, making small advances in the line of cars. Sure enough, he came up behind me, weaved over, sped up, and weaved back over what seemed like inches from my front bumper.

I confess my initial thoughts toward this person were not loving.

But it set the stage for an easy location for a difficult dialogue on forgiveness to take place.

Would it be possible for me to forgive this person, even without them asking for forgiveness? The nature of the word “forgive” (being a gift, unconditional, full of grace, not part of an “economy”, based in love and no other motive but itself) would lean towards it being a perfect example of where the gift of forgiveness can take place.

I can live towards this offensive driver as if they’d never offended me, but at the same time their offense has not been annulled or obliterated, but transformed by the act of forgiveness.

Some might even say, if the driver pulled over and apologized immediately after it happened, I would no longer be able to offer a truly unconditional forgiveness. I would simply be responding to an offer for reconciliation. Which is still very important, and needed in our communities. But it is not the same as forgiveness. Reconciliation takes place in the realm of economy. Of offer and acceptance. Even if sometimes the offers are lopsided, which may require an amount of forgiveness to “level the field”.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t cause a stir because he came proclaiming that sinners could be forgiven. Even the most devout Jews understood/believed/hoped towards this. Jesus was unpopular among we religious for proclaiming that sinners ARE forgiven already. It is a gift of love. It doesn’t come with stipulations for how to earn such forgiveness, but at the same time offers an undeniable call when such forgiveness is realized…for how life can begin anew.

May we live as people who offer true forgiveness wherever possible in our lives. Even/especially in the areas that go much deeper than being cut off on the way to work in the morning. God help us….

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