Today is September 12, 2011. Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the attacks that happened on September 11, 2001. It was hard not to know that this anniversary was being marked. There were special programs on television revisiting those terrible days when we did not truly understand what was going on in our world. There were special dedications of monuments to the victims who died in those attacks. The day was a solemn one, as it should have been, even though life went on with football games and other sports activities that normally are held on a Sunday in our country.
We had a church service that remembered and reflected upon our lives and our country and what all this may mean to us. We had special music and celebrated Holy Communion together. The attendance at the service was a bit more than usual and that was heart warming. The sermon centered on a passage from Romans where the Early Church was told to love their neighbors and in so doing they would fulfill all the commandments because "love can do no wrong to a neighbor." We talked a bit about forgiveness and how some people are able to forgive and go on with their lives but some are not able to do so because they have been wounded so badly.
It brings to mind the question, "Is it always possible to forgive and forget?" Can we forgive despite not being able to forget or does the remembrance of the pain we have require forgiveness to be granted by us repeatedly as we recall the pain? Will we eventually move on and think about the circumstances surrounding the pain less and less and eventually be able to truly forgive and forget? Perhaps human nature and our biological makeup causes us to be more or less able to truly forgive others. Some persons are blessed with "forgiving spirits" and over look wrongs more easily than others. Some persons' natures lend those persons to be pained more deeply and they are often the ones who are less about to forgive others.
Forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian message. The teachings of Jesus and Paul require forgiveness of those who wear the name Christian and, without it, one cannot truly call oneself a Christian. Yesterday, we read the passage from Matthew where Peter asks Jesus how many times must he forgive someone and Peter boldly names 7 as a generous number of times to forgive another person. Jesus replies that 7 is not enough and in fact one must forgive either 77 times or 490 times (depending on the version of the Bible you read). The idea is that 7 may be a generous number of times to grant forgiveness to someone but God requires an extravagant response by Christ's followers because they have received such an extravagant amount of forgiveness from God.
I have heard people remark, "I may forgive but I will never forget." That response somehow makes me wonder if that person truly does strive to forgive or if forgiveness is just a concept of a word that they want to embrace but they cannot truly understand how to enact that in their lives. Forgiveness is not always easy, and when we have been wounded deeply, it is not done quickly either. Forgiveness may take years, even decades, to truly be accomplished in our lives. We just passed the ten year mark in the life of our country and perhaps we are receiving some healing but there is still much more that can be done in our lives as we strive to love our neighbors as ourselves in response to God's own extravagant love toward us.