Forgiveness is one of the most difficult healthy acts we can do. Even loving the ones who hurt you doesn't always make it easy to forgive. And when it is someone else it is even harder.
If we are to have peace, personally, nationally, or internationally we must become reconciled to one another. We must forgive those who have caused us pain. For old anger and resentments eat away at peace and leave us bitter and defensive, separating ourselves from "the others."
When we fall into racism, sexism, phobias like homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. We are cutting off the possibility of reconciliation with these "others." These create pain and suffering on both sides. Much violence is done in the name of -isms and -phobias.
And if you think the church is better at forgiveness and reconciliation than laymen, have another look. Consider all the violence that is done in the name of some religion or other. These -isms and -phobias are an assault on the image we all share as created in the image of God.
Today we don't have to look far to see this playing out in our everyday lives. Oppressive regulations, denied access to resources, discriminatory hiring practices, preferential treatment of classes of people in the justice system, political hate-mongering, are some of the more obvious. There is little wonder that we are seeing such chaos.
While the fervor we are hearing today may be distressing, it is necessary for change. For these things thrive in silence. We may not personally be the cause of these evils. However, if we perpetrate the silence, if we do not speak up, we are guilty as well. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
There is no way forward in the face of this chaos without forgiveness and reconciliation. We can't wait for "time to heal all wounds" because it doesn't. It hasn't and it won't.
The good news is that people of faith can lead us through that. Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, and other faith groups are moving to heal the broken connections. We must all be part of that. We must all want healing to take the place of hating.
What about individuals? What can YOU do to bring about healing? If you are a member of a faith organization, encourage them to confront their -isms and -phobias with love. And support their efforts to reach out to "the others."
Most importantly, though, you must confront your own -isms and -phobias. Who do you need to forgive? Who might need to forgive you? It works both ways, you know. You need to make amends for the harm/hurt you have caused. You need to reach out to those you have considered "others" and get to know them as equal creations in the image of God. Share meals. Ask questions about mutual blind spots that negatively effect others.
If we are to change the world we must begin where we are, who we are. Changing the world may seem like a huge goal. But remember, every journey begins with a single step. Step out.
(1) Father Forgive: Reflections on Peacemaking by Andrew White