Lately, I’ve had forgiveness on my mind…, a lot. Forgiving others and being forgiven myself; it is a two-way street, you know. It seems like I’m getting forgiveness thrown in my face everywhere I go. Back when Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce made a really bad call that robbed Armando Galarraga of a perfect game, one of the local morning radio shows had listeners call in with what they felt the appropriate punishment should be for Joyce. It was supposedly all in fun, but some of the callers were a bit over the top. Most were pretty violent and I was struck by the fact that, for what’s supposed to be a “Christian” nation, we’re have revenge on the brain. But, what really got me was the person you would expect to be the first in line for Joyce scalp was the voice of grace in this: Armando Gallaraga. Gallaraga’s response to the blown call? “Nobody’s perfect”. For once, I was proud of the way professional athletes handled a delicate subject. Jim Joyce, after seeing his mistake in instant replay, admitted he screwed up and apologized to Gallaraga. Gallaraga, instead of pitching a fit, accepted the apology with grace and tact and forgave Joyce as soon as it happened. No dirt kicked, no bats thrown, no curses shouted. A class act. It’s about time.
You know how I mentioned that forgiveness is a two-way street in the first paragraph? I don’t do that very well. Oh, I accept forgiveness for my mistakes and screw-ups easy enough. It’s extending that grace to others where I drop the ball. I get infinite chances from God to get it right and, no matter how many times I get it wrong, He still loves me and gives yet another chance. I, on the other hand, get mad and scream curse words at strangers when I don’t like the way they drive. Lately, I’ve been working on that and a few other things besides. I’ve started to assist a downtown homeless ministry, which is big for me. As a firefighter, I’ve not been very fond of the homeless population. They’ve mostly been a pain in my ass, interrupting meals, sleep and leisure time. It had gotten to the point that I didn’t even see them as people anymore. At least not people on my level. Then, I stumbled across a website called Love Wins. It’s the site of the ministry I spoke of earlier and there are stories about several homeless folks there. Reading those stories brought their humanity back into focus and I realized that’s one of the places I’m supposed to working. And, I’m really starting to look forward to it.
Today, as I went through my morning internet routine, I checked my Twitter account and found a post from a group I follow called Big Tent Christianity. They’re hosting a conference in September and one of the speakers is a woman named Nadia Bolz-Weber, who writes a blog called “Sarcastic Lutheran”. Of course, with a title like that, I had check it out. The post this morning was about…, forgiveness. She related the story from Luke about the fallen woman who follows Jesus into a Pharisee’s house and washes and anoints his feet with fragrant oil. Of course, the Pharisee is not happy with this woman. It says in the text that the woman was a sinner. When it comes to women in the Bible, the word “sinner” is usually a euphemism for prostitute or something along those lines. Certainly not the kind of woman a Pharisee would allow into his house. Jesus, sensing the man’s discomfort, explains that she had a lot to be forgiven for, therefore she’s infinitely grateful for that forgiveness and is merely showing it. In the following text of her blog, Ms. Bolz-Weber relates this to our times with a story about one Easter when she wanted her church to really look good because there would be a lot of visitors. After a lot of work, on the appointed day, an obviously drunk homeless fellow came in. Uninvited. And stayed. He talked to people, participated in the festivities and, when he left, left a changed group of people behind. Then, a little later she did something that really got me. She changed the situation and made the uninvited guest someone who was a part of mainstream society, but still didn’t fit into that particular scene. It made me think about a group of folks I’ve been less than courteous to: Fundamentalists. They don’t believe like I do, they’re not cool and hip and into the things I am…, and I’ve been extremely judgmental of them. Which is exactly one of the main things I take them to task for. I wondered why I had such a problem with these folks and it dawned on me that I’m more like them than I want to admit. Not any easy realization to stomach.
So, in addition to keeping my temper on the road, my issues with our homeless brothers and sisters and God knows how many other things I have work out, I get to practice forgiveness with the one group that gets my goat on a regular basis. Believe me, that last one’s gonna be the hardest. There’s nothing I like better than a good theological argument and befuddling a conservative Fundie is great fun. I know Jesus did the same thing to the Pharisees; I wonder if He enjoyed it too.