Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Struggle: Twice-Shy Christlikeness

Facebook has revealed I posted this eight years ago today (i.e., in 2009). I don’t think I’m currently in whatever place I was in when I wrote this, but I think there’s some redeemable stuff in here all the same.

To both of my regular readers, I apologise for not posting much recently. I think acedia has taken hold.

Anyway, as someone who is still trying to work through issues of anger, I found Angela’s post on anger and forgiveness interesting. And I found especially interesting her inference that having to forgive someone something heinous places an intolerable burden on the one who forgives, thus making that person ‘a victim twice over’.

Christians are ‘supposed to’ forgive, I’m sure... but it’s not easy. When forgiveness is offered, there is always the possibility that the forgiveness will be rejected (‘Why are you forgiving me? What have I done?’). But forgetting what has been done, as in ‘forgiving and forgetting’ - well, this is near impossible, especially for those of us who are ‘once bitten, twice shy’. As Angela intimates, is the victim really ‘supposed’ to subject him- or herself to yet another punishment?

The trouble is, is forgiveness something that we as members who supposedly live as a community, the community of the local church, really understand? Or are we too bogged down trying to live ‘Christian’ lives that we forget that living a ‘Christian’ life is pointless when ‘Christian’ is merely equated with ‘being nice’. I don’t want to live a ‘Christian’ life, because that would mean nothing more than tutting and moaning about the state of the nation, sort of like the way The Daily Mail does. Instead, I want to live a Christlike life; but I’m struggling.

And so my struggles with anger, resentment, fear, and all those kinds of negative emotions that Christians aren’t ‘supposed’ to have are irrelevant to those who think the Christian life is a matter of technique; that the Christian life is not a life of discipline, but of mastery and control. Legalism thus rears its beautiful head: You have been sinned against, but you must forgive, lest God will not forgive you. Great. Where’s the grace that accepts I’m struggling? Where’s the love that will not judge me while I work through my various issues?

It’s easy to talk about love, and I know I struggle to love my fellow Christians a lot of the time. But sometimes it really does feel that I’m the only one who struggles: to forgive, to keep calm, to love, to live a life worthy of my calling.

Reading through this post to this point makes me think that I’m whinging - something that I am prone to do. But there’s something a bit more pointed here, too: What’s our ecclesiology? How do we truly understand the community of the local church? And what is the place of the negative within that, even as each member strives to embody Christ in his or her life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? How do we embody forgiveness when smouldering, when struggling? These are questions to which I don’t have the answer. And I suspect there is no answer.

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