Those of us who go to church say this every week, and even nonbelievers know the words to the Lord's Prayer - 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'. I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness this week, and not just about forgiving other people. I have been thinking about people I need to apologize to, people I hope will forgive me for how I have wronged them. And how, when I feel most alienated from others, I realize that the first thing I need to think about is where I have gone wrong in the situation. This may seem counterintuitive, but I think of it as the paradox of the Gospel: forgive me, and this helps me see my way to forgiving you.
There is so much talk about the divide our country is experiencing right now, and how much fear and anger there is, and how people are talking at each other and talking past each other, but not talking to each other. And not listening. I think a lot of that comes from the feeling that we have been wronged, and we want others to apologize for their hurtful attitudes, words, and actions. I think it is not nearly as easy to recognize our own. Not one of us is completely innocent of judgment, condemnation, and assumptions of uncharitable intentions against some of our brothers and sisters. Even if only in our hearts, there are those we hold in contempt.
If we want peace- and we all seem to want that - I think the place to start is with our own apologies, our own seeking forgiveness from others.
And yes, I know, some sins are more egregious than others, and there is no comparison of violent thought and violent word or deed. But then again, sin isn't necessarily about comparison. My own confession of sin does not negate, or even lead to, my neighbor doing the same. But it works the other way, too - just because I have simply judged another in my heart does not mean I have nothing to confess.
'Your sins are forgiven', Jesus says to the paralyzed man in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but the man doesn't ask for forgiveness, just healing. It seems that many of us are seeking healing right now for the things that are dividing us. It may be that beginning with our own sins, our own need for forgiveness, will be part of that healing as well.
I am willing to find out.