vendredi, octobre 13, 2006

Some thoughts on forgiveness: From this past Wednesday's Inquirer

Posted on Wed, Oct. 11, 2006
Everyday forgiveness By Elizabeth Evans
Students of Amish practice have said much recently about the stunning way in which the plain people incarnate the practice of forgiveness. As I watched that forgiveness in action, I wondered: Can a typcial Christian like me draw some meaning from this tragedy in ways that have everyday consequences? Can I learn from my brothers and sisters in Christ?
If the Amish seem different, it is because in some ways, in their insularity and ascetic practice, they take the words of the New Testament more seriously than many of the vocal advocates for "family values" and cultural conservatism or liberal proponents of peace and social justice. If we really took Jesus at his word, we'd find ways to build bridges with our ideological opponents, not slam them.
How many times have Christians heard Jesus' injunction to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44)? How many of us could have met, as Amish families reportedly have, with the widow of Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot their children?
Are you feuding with a coworker? Taking sides in a family quarrel? In everyday circumstances far less traumatic, we as individuals have many opportunities, not to just practice forgiveness, but to encourage others to lay down the burden of vengefulness and hatred.
However faithful we are in church attendance, we tend to face sickness, loss and disability out of the public eye. We feel it's something better kept within our nuclear families.
But our Amish neighbors have a historical heritage of enduring affliction for their faith that may make them stronger in the face of suffering. This puts them squarely in the tradition of the early Christians to whom the author of I Peter (4:13) wrote: "Rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed."
None of us would choose grief, nor would we wish it on others - yet life offers us many opportunities to draw deeper meaning from bad fortune and tragedy, instead of taking refuge in drug and alcohol abuse, cynicism or despair.
As we become more and more dependent on our electronic toys to build relationships with others, we run the risk of losing the interdependent threads that make renewal possible, not just for individuals, but also for communities. There, too, the Amish show us a promising way forward.
By offering mutual help when it is necessary, the Amish truly bear one another's burdens: "The body does not consist of one member but of many" (I Cor. 12:14).
I suspect that if you look around, you will find someone in your area, someone you already know, in need of a bag of groceries, or a ride to the doctor, or just a listening ear. Beyond that, we could all benefit, both in city and suburb, from the sense that a healthy community is a reciprocal responsibility.
For those of us who get caught up in the troubles that currently afflict mainline Protestant denominations, there may be a wider moral in observing how the Amish community faced tragedy together.
As I sat down to write this column, I got an e-mail from the "Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion." I had never heard of them, but they described themselves as a "catalyst for the survival of a strong Anglican presence" and invited Episcopal clergy to join them in preparing for a formal schism.
Reading this missive, I smiled wryly. The Amish, who do not use computers, let alone electricity, would never have gotten such an e-mail, with its call to arms on behalf of the "true faith. A church "revolution" could occur, and the Amish would miss it.
Living without electricity, automobiles and televisions is a small price, perhaps, for the peace that no individualistic and schismatic American denomination can truly promise its members - the peace that the world cannot give.
The Amish probably wouldn't take credit for any of these ideas. Instead, they would point fellow Christians back to our roots in the life and teachings of the man we call Savior. In the weeks to come, "English" Christians may want to renew their acquaintance with him.
Elizabeth Evans lives and writes in Glenmoore.
© 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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