Almost a year ago I wrote about how the proximity of God's reign makes a kind of forgiveness available to us to practice. It is a non-transactional forgiveness. I wrote:
"I understand [forgiveness as a dynamic reality] begun in the presence of God. Forgiveness means trusting God's love enough to pursue healing instead of presuming to do God's work by punishing others. It is no longer a transactional housekeeping of rights and wrongs, of debts and favors. It is a faithful and constant response to the 'reign of God being upon us.'"I still believe this. I also believe that even if we forget, or stumble, are hurt, or hurt each other God's reign does not shrink away from us. Whenever we forgive others, especially when we do so out of God's love and forgiveness of us something changes.
Its like a light comes on or a heavy load gets lighter or our breathing is easier. Something changes.
If we stop ourselves short of that understanding and restrict our acts of forgiveness to those tired old transactional methods then the darkness soon descends again, the load returns, the air gets heavy. Better the devil we know than the one we don't and we are right back where we started.
Maybe the allure of this transactional forgiveness is that it feels like power when we can look at others as indebted to us. Isn't that the language we use, to say "he owes me an apology." But this idol of this false power cannot free us. It needs our stubbornness to hold its ground.
God's forgiveness is not about power. It's not about God holding some ground. It's not about winning in a zero sum game with others.
When we take our turn forgiveness in God's kingdom means both sides letting go of power and neither keeping accounts. It means releasing all our presumptions of leverage or advantage over others so that all we're left is to be children in God's presence.
It's like Paul told the Corinthians:
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return-- I speak as to children-- open wide your hearts also. (2 Cor. 6:8b-13, NRSV)