A sermon given by The Reverend Peter Jin, Assistant Priest
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
We have to admit that we all love to be forgiven. But forgiving others: that is another story. We cling to our hurts. We don’t want to forgive.
To be honest, Jesus’ teaching on loving and forgiving our enemies is very difficult to put it into practice. G. K. Chesterton said something amusing: ‘The Bible tells us to love our neighbours and also to love our enemies, probably because generally they are the same people’.
Is it really possible to love your enemy, to forgive the person who deeply hurt you? I doubt.
Is this too much to expect of the people of the Ukraine right now? Headlines like “We will not forgive”
and “God will not forgive” are contrasted with the captured Russian soldier who begged for forgiveness,
and the Ukrainian bishop who preached an impassioned sermon on “Forgiveness Sunday’. (6 March,2022).
I believe it is achievable not to hate our enemies and it is also possible to forget the person who hurt us and move on, but what if the hurt is too destructive, too disastrous? It is a very hard topic to preach on, but I have a few thoughts on forgiveness. So this evening, I am going to share them with you and I hope I can have enough courage to forgive more and be reconciled with more people.
Theologian Richard Rohr tells us that ‘your life is not about you’. Our life is ours, yes, but it is not about us. We belong to God. Whether we live or die, we live for the Lord, and we die for the Lord. So in the light of this, forgiveness becomes a possibility.
Only when we follow this line, which is our lives are not about us, and allow this to sink in, then we have the ability to forgive.
Let me make it clearer. The incapacity to forgive others comes from one place. This place is a strong sense of the SELF as the centre of the universe.
What I mean is that I belong to me. It is about me. I have been offended; you get in my way.
But when we realise our lives are not about us. Everything in us is a gift. When we think this way,
then we find the forgiveness is possible. So at that moment, our egos will not control us. We don’t need let our sense of self righteousness get in the way.
I am going to provide THREE words of advice about how to make forgiveness easier. Let me warn you: I have been practising those tips but I fail from time to time. It is not because my advice in theory has flaws; it is because I often forget Richard Rohr’s reminder that my life is not about me.
Advice one: Keep in mind frequently our own mistakes and the hurts caused by us.
The reality is we want to forget our wrongdoings, but we want to keep wrongdoings of others before our minds and eyes.
I confess that I sometimes find a quiet place to purposefully remind myself I have been offended by my dear wife. What a relief that she is not here tonight. Lol. The sad thing is this revisit of my old scar
is to make my pain much worse.
Knowing the theory is one thing, but we do have to let it sink in to our bones and our guts rather than just learn this intellectually. A useful tip is that we remind ourselves that we have been forgiven far more than we have been offended by others.
Advice two: Be intentional about what we say.
In our prayer book, we say Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. Then in silence we call to mind our sins.
How do often we take that chance to remind ourselves our needs to be forgiven?
Another example is we all say the Lord’s prayer. ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. We cannot simply say Lord forgive me and then not forgive those who offend us.
Advice three: Forgive quickly.
St. Paul reminds us not to allow the sun to go down while we are still angry. It is very good advice. We are angry about something and we have been hurt by someone. Don’t let the sun go down on our anger. In other words, don’t let that bitterness sink into our bones. We can hold these negative feelings
for days, weeks, and even years. Because we let these negative feelings sink so deeply and become part of who we are, so it is impossible to forgive.
Don’t let that happen. Forgive quickly when someone hurts us. Reconcile quickly.
Finally forgiveness is not vague and abstract, rather it is through concrete acts with words, with visits, with phone calls. Let people know, we offer forgiveness. It can begin within our own family. If we can forgive daily the small irritations, we will are able to learn to let go of the more deep wounds.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to do an exercise with me. Let us be quiet for 2 minutes
and then I will say a short prayer. In these 2 minutes, you and I forgive one person who hurt us, or we ask God to give us strength to forgive this person.
Let us pray. Lord, we forgive others because we have been forgiven. Lord, our lives don’t belong to us,
but belong to you. Let your forgiving grace flow through us to others. Especially when we lost our way,
You continually welcome us back into your arm by giving yourself completely to us in the Eucharist. Amen.