Making peace by ending violence
Forgiveness as letting go
Susan Keil Smith
Matthew 6:14-15 (CEB)
“If you forgive others their sins, God will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will God forgive your sins.”
Reflection: Jesus gives us a template for how to pray. As we repeat the all-too-familiar prayer that he taught us, a journey through the words reveals different meanings at different times in our lives.
Being reminded that God’s will be done is a tough call when a person is the victim of violence. I find myself asking, “What is God’s will in a situation where one person violates another?” How can I reconcile the will of the Holy One against the hurt and pain of another? Perhaps a better question is, “How can I allow God’s love to penetrate the hurt and walk with the victim, through the pain, to find the kingdom of God on earth?”
This challenge goes with me to the latter part of the prayer, “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” Jesus goes on to say, “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Wait…I thought I was forgiven by grace! Does my salvation really depend on forgiving those who do me harm?
Surely salvation comes through grace, but when I cannot forgive, the violence seems to take up root within me. An act of violence forges a connection between the perpetrator and the victim, like a string tied to each person’s wrist. To forgive is to cut that string and set both parties free from the pain of the past. Forgiveness in the face of violence is probably one of the biggest tests of our faith. How do we respond?
Action: Can I take one step towards forgiving someone for an act of violence that has touched my life? Today, I will name the pain I’m holding and offer it to God, trusting God to hold it in a grace-filled place as I begin to let it go.
Prayer: O God of all, help me to allow space to recognize that you hold me in your arms, especially when I struggle with acts of violence that have hurt so many. Amen.
Susan Keil Smith lives in Albuquerque, NM, and has been a member of First Presbyterian church for 43 years, coming from New York where she was at Marble Collegiate Church. She is an ordained elder and active deacon, working for justice and safe church awareness in addition to her commitment to Presbyterian Women and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.