9/11. It would be tempting to want to make this day a triumphal celebration of “we will and have prevailed against the enemy.” It might be tempting to want to wave our flags and pump up our breasts in pride and patriotism. And we do recognize the many families who lost loved ones on this day 10 years ago, and we also acknowledge the sacrifices of countless others who serve in our armed forces to fight for freedom and justice – and many who have lost their lives for this cause. And for all of that, we are to be thankful and know we are blessed to live in this country.
But there’s something maybe not missing, but something that we hesitate to acknowledge in all this – Forgiveness. Ironic or a God sighting, the text for this day comes from Matthew 18: 21-22, as Peter asks Jesus,
“Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
Forgiveness is never an easy thing. Admittedly, it’s easier to hold on to the animosities that we have and the victimized feelings that we have, because in a sense the cliché holds true: misery loves comfort. When we hold on to anger and accusations against others, we get to keep holding on to ourselves – making it all about us and there’s a certain kind of security in all that. But when we let go, we are afraid that we become vulnerable. And maybe we do! But if we are vulnerable, we are vulnerable to all the grace and goodness that God has to give. Freedom from pain and suffering, and a hope of something new arises that prevails over feelings of vengeance. Jesus calls us to muster up all that we’ve got and to forgive – not only once or seven times, but every time. We don’t even get to pick when we deem something to be forgiveness-worthy. Jesus says to forgive seventy times seven – every time.
So on this day as we remember a bleak and saddened day in our history, if you so desire, draw out your laments for a God who is big enough to handle it and wants to hear what is on your heart, but if you haven’t done so already, then ponder for a moment asking God also to make space in your heart for the kind of forgiveness Jesus had as he hung on the cross. And then live in hope.