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February 20, 2014

Forgiveness is a powerful weapon

If God does not forgive — per the Book of Revelation — why should we?

The Rev. Holly McKissick, Peace Christian Church UCC: “You can’t forgive?”

The priest pointed to the little boy with tousled brown hair. It was 1992 in a poor village in northern El Salvador.

A corrupt military had conducted a scorched-earth policy against the people of this humble country for years, but the civil war was over. The people were wounded and raw, but tender with hope; there was much talk about building a new El Salvador.

We were at Mass when the bishop spoke on reconciliation and forgiveness. After reading from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount — the difficult words about making peace with your sister or brother before you leave your gift at the altar — the priest asked, “Is there anyone here who cannot love an enemy? Make peace with a brother?”

The little boy held his hand up high. The bishop paused, then looked at him: “You can’t forgive your brother?” The boy shook his head. What could you say?

He had been 8 when he returned home after gathering firewood. The army had come through. His mother and three sisters were dead; his mother’s head was on a post.

Why should we forgive our enemies? No doubt it is a generous gift to see the one who has wronged us as an altar of God, but I confess I find it hard to love the brother who rapes, betrays, destroys.

Why should the little boy forgive?

Nelson Mandela answered, “Forgiveness liberates the soul, that’s why it is such a powerful weapon.”

I do hope the little boy was able to forgive, finally; I hope he was able to find at least a glimmer of healing and peace. I hope he was able to build that new country — beyond hate — where he could live out his days liberated by the power of forgiveness.

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