the future of forgiveness

A bunch of thoughts about forgiveness collided in my head over the weekend.

Let me share them with you — then you tell me whether you’ve glimpsed the creation of a whole new (highly unstable) element or something more like a five car pile-up:

  1. Forgiveness has a future. That is, forgiveness only makes sense in so far as it prepares the ground for the restoration of a wider moral and relational order in which life can flourish. This was the basic thesis of a lecture I attended late last week, ‘Forgiveness: Narrative and Lyrical’ by Kevin Hart — and it was what sparked off my chain of thought.
  2. Forgiveness provides a foretaste of the future. A strong case can be made for seeing the Lord’s Prayer as all about the future that Jesus’ resurrection secures. So it’s significant that the only present human activity it mentions is forgiving (as something inseparable from being forgiven).
  3. And yet the future holds more than forgiveness. Hence, Christians are called to engage in a variety of activities anticipating creation’s ultimate future. As we pursue things like justice, beauty, and responsible stewardship of God’s world, we’re not so much building the kingdom as establishing bridgeheads of the proper final ordering of things to the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit.
  4. But I’m less sure about how forgiveness relates to these other aspects of the new creation. How does Point 2 fit with Point 3? Whenever I talk about Point 3 with people, some get excited while others greet it with a degree of scepticism. This usually bubbles up in cautious questions about how the pursuit of justice or stewardship of creation (or whatever) should be prioritised with respect to evangelism — ie. announcing God’s forgiveness and urging people to be reconciled with God.

Not very concrete, I know. At least not yet.

But do please share your thoughts with me…

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