Saturday, January 12, 2013

Forgiveness is a Beautiful Thing

Forgiveness is a Beautiful Thing

I want to know the love of God so as to love others as God does. One aspect of God's love is this:Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love forgives. Once forgiveness is granted, all the record-keeping goes out the window. Anyone who has ever experienced God's love-as-forgiveness knows the joy and freedom of it, not as some theory, but as an experiential reality. I am willing to cancel others' indebtedness towards me as I realize how much God has forgiven me. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Not to forgive others is an evil thing.

My favorite movie scene on forgiveness-as-release-from-"record-keeping" is in "The Mission."Robert DeNiro plays a soldier, a "conquistador," who mercilessly slaughters entire villages of tribal Indians in South America in pursuit of gold. One day DeNiro gets into a fight with his brother and kills him. He's thrown in prison. Not only is he behind literal, physical prison bars, he is also in a spiritual and emotional prison. He is filled with self-hatred and views himself an evil, horrific creature who deserves to be punished for the rest of his days and beyond.

Jeremy Irons plays a priest whose parish is one of the tribes DeNiro personally ravaged. Irons offers DeNiro redemption if he will join him in serving the people of this tribe. But DeNiro refuses to be free of his past. As an act of self-penance, DeNiro carries a large bag of his conquistador armor and weapons. The sight of him carrying this stuff through the jungles and up mountains is exhausting. Doesn't he understand that this is what Jesus died on the cross for, paying the price by taking on the punishment we all deserve?

At the trip's end, as they approach the village, they have to climb a 300-foot cliff that has a waterfall. DeNiro inches his way up, with this huge ball of sin tied to him. After hours of work he finally makes it to the top. As he makes his way over the edge onto a ledge the entire tribe is there to face him. The tribal chief approaches him, carrying a knife. At this point it looks like he's going to kill the murderous DeNiro. But instead he cuts the rope from around DeNiro's neck, and the large bag of metal falls into the river below. The tribe is smiling. This is the act of forgiveness and redemption.

A later scene shows DeNiro loving these tribes-people while he is reading, in the background, 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.