I have been focusing on forgiveness these last few installments. This is not only because I have learned about forgiveness within the larger framing of the approaching nearness of God's reign -- thank you Martin Smith -- but also because I have also learned how we need to continually practice forgiveness on lots of levels within the web of relationships of our day-to-day lives.
The biggest piece of my learning has been to understand the limitations of a transactional approach to forgiving. When Jesus talks about loving our enemies he criticizes an easy tit-for-tat balancing within safe circles. He says "Even the gentiles do that." (Matthew 5:47) and by that clearly intends for us to do more.
Loving one's enemies is "kingdom work." It relies on an authority larger than our enclosed circles and requires much more than a "settled accounts" stasis.
Just as important as the scope in this reading is our recognizing that forgiveness -- principle among those actions that could be construed as loving one's enemies -- must be something done. It requires action.
Because it is an action involving another it will have all the appearance of being only transactional. It will have the initiating approach of the petitioner necessarily coupled with the returning and confirming response of the one being petitioned. Like any transaction "I'm sorry/I forgive you" it risks being understood as finished too soon and portrayed as discrete and specific to the shared interests of the two parties. Done!
Action is required and because we are creatures of time and space action it is required again, and again, and again.
This reminds me of a conversation I had at seminary about the word torah/תּוֹרָה. Our contemporary use is to understand the word as a noun depicting the collection of texts in the first five books of the Bible and to summarize them as largely of or about a set of rules or laws.
This is understandable because a centerpiece story in that collection is the handing of the ten commandments to Moses. What was interesting to learn then was that the word Torah/תּוֹרָה is built on a verb ירה which means to teach.
The characteristics I am applying to forgiveness are at work here. Faithful living whether determined by ancient Hebrew standards or a more contemporary Christian practice calls us to continual action.
Whether it is one discrete transaction after another, cascading or expanding into an ever widening circle or it is an aroused response of love for others begun and made near to us in God's ever approaching love of us "kingdom work" requires action!