Beginning to Forgive

Dear Confirming Congregants:

This coming Saturday will be our second annual Confirmation Rally, where we invite Confirmation-aged young people from the greater La Grange community to celebrate our common faith and our unity in Christ. There will be snacks, music, conversation, dinner, games and a few special guests. We hope to link our young people in the knowledge that they are members of a church fellowship that extends well beyond the walls of FPCLG, a common faith, a common heritage, a body of Christ with many expressions of tradition, doctrine and practice. In the same way that we do not baptize our children as Presbyterians, we do not confirm our young people as Presbyterians, but in both rites we announce their covenant relationship with Christians, locally, regionally, globally and throughout the generations; somewhere between a slice of pizza and a game of ditto, we’re hoping they will catch a glimmer of the communion of saints.

Our theme text for this year comes from Paul’s letter to the Colossians 3.12-17 (text linked) where he commends the community to be a people known for forgiveness and love, a deep expectation for Christians of any age; but conveying this early in one’s faith journey can help prevent one from wandering down paths of disagreement and hostility.

Asked by our Confirmation team to say a few words regarding the text, I’ve been musing mostly about forgiveness, a capacity I believe we unlearn as we age. What twists the adult brain is the misplaced anxiety that forgiveness will mean an accumulation of hurt, a queuing up for more abuse at the hands of those who have disappointed, even injured us in the past. By clinging to unforgiveness we falsely believe we will protect ourselves from those who have harmed us; but instead we endlessly carry the accumulated acidity of toxic interactions.

Forgiveness is not something that happens between individuals; that’s reconciliation. Forgiveness is what happens inside one individual when thinking of another, a discharge of animosity that frees us to live without continually replaying experiences of heartbreak and disappointment. One can forgive without reconciliation; if someone continues to be dangerous, they should be avoided, but as Depression era revivalist preacher Emmet Fox said in his essay, The Sermon on the Mount, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

I realize I have a great deal more musing to do before I can somehow relate these thoughts to eighth graders, but if we can raise a generation of young people with the capacity to forgive, we can change their lives, and they will change the world.

Brushing up on the rules to ditto, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor