Thursday, March 09, 2006

Forgiveness completely

It seems like lately I am learning my best spiritual lessons from either the unchurched or from children. I was thinking this morning about a former boss of mine, Jim. I worked for him when I was twenty years old. He owned a chain of restaurants and was very successful. He tried college but said he realized it wasn't for him. He would say that he knew he would never be as smart as everyone else, but he could out work anybody. Jim was as cute as a button and always on ten. Despite his success he was very down to earth and treated everyone with the same respect. It wasn't above him to come into the restaurant on a busy night and grab a broom or bus tables. I worked for him with my best friends and roommates, Ginny and Shirley.
One day Shirley's boyfriend came to me very upset. He said that Jim had slept with my roommates while on a business trip out of town and then threatened them if they ever spoke up about it. I probably wouldn't have believed it, but since the trip, Ginny and Shirley were constantly laughing and giggling about a private joke. I didn't know what it was about but I got the feeling it was about something illicit. Also I was very gullible and just couldn't imagine my friends making up such a wild tale.
Well, to make a long story short, I confronted Jim. I even threatened him. It was the only time I have ever seen him angry. He denied it and stormed out. A while later my friends arrived and Shirley confessed that it was all a big lie she had made up to manipulate her boyfriend.
I apologized to Jim and he accepted my apology graciously. Thank God he didn't want or need his pound of flesh in that small town where jobs were scarce. In fact his forgiveness was so complete that he even tried to fix me up with his best friend. And a while later, when a manager who resented my faith accused me of stealing, he intervened for me. He knew I wasn't a thief.
Jim didn't go to church. Maybe that's why he didn't know anything about church forgiveness. You know the kind where we mouth the words but still want to hold it over a person's head until we feel they have suffered sufficiently under our resentment. He didn't know about church forgiveness where we say we have forgiven, yet every time a person's name is mentioned we say more with our facial expressions than our words ever could. He didn't know about church forgiveness, where we spread our resentment under the guise of a prayer request because we are "just so concerned" about the situation. Jim didn't know anything about any of that. When he forgave you he forgave you completely and he never mentioned it again.


AsceticWay said...

Angie, you know very well what you're calling 'church forgiveness' isn't that at all. You sound so bitter against the church here. Sure, the church is full of sinners, worse people than some of the unchurched. But they're there because they are sick and need healing. Please don't confuse real church forgiveness that many experience with some other sinful bastardization of it.

voixdange said...

No, I'm not bitter, I'm free, finally. And I am convinced that the modern day version of church is producing scribes and Pharisees much faster than it is producing disciples.

madcapmum said...

As someone who has backed away from the church, I find it interesting that when the church fails, there's a great apologetic to explain that that's not really the church, just the fallen people in it, but when things go well, that's proof that church is "right" and blessed by God.

I prefer Yancey's analogy of the spastic body of Christ, and the humility of God in assuming it. When my thyroid fails, I don't rush to explain to my doctor that it's not really how my body functions, it's not really my thyroid. That's my thyroid, that's what it does, and it needs bolstering.

I think the church is a pretty perilous place, with occasional flashes of grace. I think the either/or thinking is what traps people into corners where they start denying each other, and I've certainly done enough of it myself to know what I'm talking about.

voixdange said...

The church certainly needs to get in touch with the Great Physician, that's for sure, and I speak as one whose still a regular attender. Thankfully for me the flashes of grace have been more than occasional . . .otherwise I would have walked out long ago asking "what is the point?" Thanks for your comment MCM, I appreciated it.

AsceticWay said...


I didn't say it wasn't the church at those times, just that it wasn't really forgiveness. To call this false forgiveness "church forgiveness" as angevoix did seems to assign the ideal of the calling of Christians to forgive with this falsehood. The church has enough problems without us forming an apologetic of "church forgiverness" that isn't really forgiveness at all. I know that was the point of what was written, but it just feels more like mockery and mudslinging at other people's sins to the denigration of the ability for real forgiveness to take place in church, rather than the usual humble lovingkindness that angevoix often writes with.

voixdange said...

You know, I am sorry that you took it that way, it wasn't the intention. I have been in church a long time and have worked in the church for 12 years. Most of that time has been spent in church choirs, which is another animal all together . . .
I get very frustrated when innocent people are hurt at church because of the "bastardized" religious culture that we seem to have developed, which does not reflect Christ. Tommy Tenney, the author of God Chasers visited our church twice and made the statement "If you can survive church, you can survive anything!" I want us to live up to what we are called to be.