Forgiving the unforgivable?

23 Aug 2017


Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are those who forgive the unforgivable,
for they have seen the darkness of their own souls.

I mourned the passing earlier this year of Jill Saward: you may remember her, she was a victim of the Ealing vicarage rape attack. I heard her speak once, at Greenbelt, and the courage with which she faced the crime that had been done to her, and her willingness to speak language of forgiveness as a path to wholeness, had a profound effect on me. In my pastoral work I speak sometimes with those who have been greatly wronged, victims of abuse of all kinds, and I have never found it appropriate to tell anyone that they must forgive their abuser. But when someone comes to the conclusion that the path from victimhood lies through the dark valley of forgiveness, and when they realise that despite the wrong done to them they share common humanity with those who do wrong to others, something profound shifts, and a moment of blessing can emerge. But when we think of this on a global scale, when we bring to mind the terrorist atrocities of all the years, from Isis to the IRA and beyond, and when we see the historical scars of un-forgiveness written across whole societies and nations, we can begin to see why mercy is a blessing that cuts both ways.

A Prayer
God of Justice and Peace, God of Mercy and Forgiveness, we pray for all those who have been affected by the wrongs of others. We pray for victims of terrorist atrocities, and think particularly of Barcelona and Finland. We pray for those who have been hurt by abusers, and those who have been wronged by others. May the God of peace and love lead us out of our spiralling ideologies of hatred. May the God of the cross release us from our addiction to violence. May we resist the temptation to demonise, and instead seek allies of godliness across religious and political borders. Amen. 

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