¶ … Church as a Forgiving Community
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The article by Magnuson and Enright points out that "empirical studies" have proven that when a person is forgiven, or honestly seeks forgiveness, this act helps that person's self-esteem and decreases depression, anger, and anxiety. The article goes on to review the history of forgiveness in religion, and it illustrates the benefits of one person forgiving another person. On page 115 the authors are talking about an intervention that is also called restorative justice, where the offender and the victim come together and the offender is able to see and hear how the other was hurt. This is a wonderful model to follow, but the authors understand that if you don't teach children the value of forgiveness, a whole generation of people will not follow this path.
Forgiveness is not going to work until the individual reduced the anger and has "committed to forgive" (117). One must decide to forgive, first, and for the person receiving forgiveness (in the Church context) that person is in a way at the mercy of the victim although the authors point out that demanding forgiveness is not part of the process. The person forgiving the other person should recollect how he or she also offended or harmed another person, and realize we're all subject to mistakes and flaws. On page 118 the pastor is seen as the leader in any intervention involving forgiveness. The pastor must preach sermons (at least 5 annually) on the importance of forgiveness and must educate the church staff as well. The article mentions some of the actors who must education of all those groups and individuals mentioned in the paragraph above must take place for fifteen weeks each year. This is taking forgiveness very seriously, but that is the only way it will work, the authors explain.
By emphasizing a major role of the Church (including families and their children, the pastor, singles, the choir leader and youth ministries) as one of forgiveness, it is a very refreshing idea. Why? Because some people who don't attend services or belong to a Church, think all a Church does is preach hellfire and brimstone. This isn't always true of course. But the point is made here in this reflection. Instead of emphasizing that unless a person is "saved" and follows the tenets of the Church, he or she will not go to Heaven, the Church should be teaching people to forgive. The Church should be teaching the congregation positive things that people can use outside of the Church. When emphasizing forgiveness, the Church is thus engaged with a powerful human approach to people-to-people interaction that is quite apart from God, Heaven, Hell, and deep philosophical concepts linked to Christianity.
Forgiveness is of course a very Christian concept, because when Jesus Christ was dying on the Cross, he said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Some people think that forgiveness in the context of the Church means going into "confession" and asking the priest to forgive something that worshipper has done. To someone who is skeptical about organized religion, learning about the…
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