Brokering Forgiveness

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I was in Starbucks last week and it was crowded. It is winter in Atlanta so people had large coats on as the tried to weave in between tables that were too close to one another. In the process of time, a woman knocked over another woman’s coffee as she passed by her table. Coffee was spilled everywhere. The woman whose coffee was spilled was upset because of the spill AND because it didn’t seem that the other woman either knew that she had spilled it or that she even cared about what happened.

I saw the whole thing go down and I felt like I needed to do something. Should I go buy the woman a new coffee so it is replaced? Should I also tell the woman who spilled the coffee what she did whether she knew about it or not? Ultimately I wondered if it was any of my business? The woman with spilled coffee could’ve talked to the other woman herself if she wanted to, I guess. I was in the middle; I felt helpless on the one hand and uneasy, wanting to do something on the other.

I believe that we find ourselves in the middle of two fractured parties often. Whether it is two neighbors within disagreement, two people at work who are angry with one another, or a couple of family members who are not speaking to one another. We constantly feel the pull of wanting to do something, not wanting to “meddle in another’s business,” and wondering if it is better to keep our eyes down and just let it play out.

We live in an angry world. Don’t believe me, open your Facebook account and scroll down the feed. Currently political candidates are being rewarded for saying loud, abusive things rather than proving that they could create a productive, political environment. I saw this clip on the Dan LeBatard show and I found agreement in his thesis statement: we are angry people. We pick up the pitchfork, light our torches, get angry, AND THEN go look for something to be angry about.

Perhaps the gift that the Christian community can give to our angry world is the hope of forgiveness and repair. Isn’t it interesting that Paul writes to his friend Philemon in a desperate attempt to broker forgiveness between he and Onesimus. It was upsetting to Paul that two of his friends were at odds. Paul is not seeking his own forgiveness but desiring to create a forgiving environment for others. Paul had a big gospel, one that extended his own quest for forgiveness and imagined a healed cosmos.

May we be those healers, those “shalomists” in a world full of terrorists of every kind of stripe and practice.

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