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Viewpoint from Don McAllister for 7th September 2012


Don McAllister
Service Leader
Old Meeting
Unitarian & Free Christian Church

Seventy times Seven?

What a dark age this is in which we live, our world seemingly filled with all manner of crime and conflict, between peoples, religions and nations, ranging from petty theft to murder, with everything else sandwiched somewhere in-between.  Such is the impression one may gain dove leftfrom the news media.  And it appears to me, that the greater causes for these troubles are greed and self-interest.  Fortunately, I have an as yet unquenchanably high opinion of human nature as a whole, firmly believing that all the good that is done, without fanfare or fuss, far outweighs what negativity we are presented with.  Unfortunately, it is the negative news that predominates and catches our attention the most, especially for me, when I hear of the callous taking of children's lives.  No doubt many people, like me, are outraged over such heinous crimes, and may wish to see the direst punishments meted out to the guilty.  I feel great empathy with parents for the loss of their children in these circumstances, am angry that it should have happened and find it difficult to even consider forgiveness.
Such emotions of course, are contrary to what it is I should be feeling as a committed Christian, leaving me with a sense of guilt and shame at such ignoble thoughts.  I then have to look again at the example and teaching of Jesus, to gain a different, more charitable perspective and consider the dangers into which the perpetrators of such crimes have placed their souls.  I have also to remind myself that I am not perfect; that it is not wholly wise nor good to see things around the 'plank' in my own eye; that it is not right that I should be so prepared to 'throw the fist stone' (or any stone).  A great deal is laid upon the shoulders of he/she who would claim to be a Christian, and truly follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Yet we are not given any load that is impossible for us to carry.  All that is asked of us, is that we obey God's commandments and show love and compassion to our brother, which includes mercy and forgiveness, just as we would wish others do for us - the same that we ask in the Lord's prayer.
But how often must we forgive, when we see the same dreadful things happening time and time again?   The answer to this is quite simple, and is the same one Jesus gave when asked the same question - you must offer your brother forgiveness, not seven times, but seventy seven times, which is always.  Just as our loving Father is ever merciful, so should we do our best to be the same?  Of course, it helps to have some kind of understanding as to why some people do the dreadful things they do against their fellow-man and against nature, in order that we may take appropriate action to help prevent it from happening again.  However, forgiveness, like love, must be given unconditionally, for it is a grace to both give and receive it, whether understanding is present or not.
And this world of ours is not such a bad place - in fact it is wonderfully spectacular for those who have the eyes to see it.