Thursday, November 08, 2007

Excuse me, forgive me

C. S. Lewis on forgiveness

"A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in [the forgiveness of sins]: from thinking that God will not take us to himself again unless he is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favour. But that would not be forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness; and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.

"When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying ‘But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.’ Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every trace of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins it is a safe bet (thought not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think: as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending carefully to everything which may show that the other man was not so much blame as we thought. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine per cent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one per cent of guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christians means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of family life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what he says."

- C. S. Lewis, “On Forgiveness” in Fern-seed and Elephants, 43.

This distinction is very important and yet I see people confusing these concepts all the time.
Fifteen points for the location of this sculpture.

7 comments:

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Hey byron, welcoming back.

nico said...

what, no points for the photo? i actually know this one! :)

byron smith said...

Thanks.

And points now offered - if you're quick.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

'Sculpture by the Sea' around Bondi

nico said...

so much pressure! i don't know if the sculpture has a name but it's at manly, at the ocean pool on the walk between manly beach and shelly beach...

nico said...

amendment to my above post - the pool is called the 'fairy bower pool' at manly and the sculpture is called 'sea nymphs or oceanides', by helen lee :)

byron smith said...

Nico - well done and for all the extra info I'll give you a total of twenty points.