I have forgiven people who have hurt me. At least I tell myself I have. But I recently saw a news piece on CBS news that made me question how deep that forgiveness runs. It is a story of a mother forgiving the person who murdered her son.
(You can watch a version with better audio directly from CBS news here.)
Mary and Oshea's story is amazing. But, no offense to CBS news, I think the title is wrong. I don’t think it is a story of forgiveness, I think it is a story of something even more powerful: reconciliation.
Forgiveness can take place in the quietness of our own hearts. It is the act of letting go, of not holding onto a grudges that will eat away at our souls. It is important. And powerful. But does God call us to something more?
In this news story, Mary didn’t simply forgive Oshea, she pursued him. First, while he was still in prison, she pursued a conversation with him. Initially, he refused. (Hear more about their story in an interview they did at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.) After Oshea agreed to meet, Mary pursued healing for herself, so she would be ready to talk. Then, she pursued restoration of a relationship through continued conversations. After Oshea was released, Mary even pursued second chances for him by throwing him a welcome party and connecting him with people who could help him get on his feet.
Mary’s pursuit of reconciliation is humbling to me. I think of how God pursues us.
When I look at my own life, I more often see shallow forgiveness than pursuit of reconciliation. I have told myself I forgave someone, but have I told the other person? I have let things go, but have I sought healing in the relationship?
To pursue reconciliation takes courage. There is no guarantee of how the other person will respond. There could be more hurt. More anger. More things to forgive. But, it is the only way to truly reflect the love, grace, forgiveness, and healing we have been offered through Christ.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24
Father, give me the courage to pursue reconciliation.