Monday, February 2, 2009


Then Peter came to him and said, "Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!"
--Matthew 18:21-22

It is difficult to truly forgive, and I am not sure if I am capable of such a beautiful act. My tendency is to hold grudges and judgments in my heart as my mouth speaks words of love, as I write phrases of peace.

At the kitchen, we witness the consequences of gentrification, of war, of misplaced priorities. I see men and women I have grown to love walk through our line; I am struck with sorrow and anger. Am I capable of forgiving those who contribute to oppression? If face to face with a loft-dweller, could I say, "You are persecuting my friends: fellow children of God; although you have hurt me through your oppression of them, I love you not only because I am called to, but because I want to. I ask you to forgive me for my judgments against you. I rejoice in this newfound love, this forgiveness"?

If face to face with a police officer of the mayor, could I say, "Your enforcement of policies has demonized and tortured my friends; yet I forgive you because I cherish the bond we share as brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope you will forgive me for my demonization of you and your work. My love for you is just as important as my love for the poor"?

The struggle to seek forgiveness is great, as well. The flaws I carry are deep and I feel the crevices of sin throughout my day. In order to continue my work, to live a life of nonviolence and to follow the path of Jesus' sacrificial mercy, I must be able to kneel before those I have hurt and understand I may not receive the forgiveness I so desire. I might be instead spat on, criticized, or hurt in return. Yet in the tradition of nonviolence, it is necessary to humble myself in the presence of those I denied. And, in the end, it is necessary that I also lift my own yoke and forgive myself.

Possibly more difficult is to walk away from the act of forgiveness without pride, but with humility--still recognizing my own shortcomings and wrongdoings, seeing myself as a sinner just as the person I forgave, craving the forgiveness of those I have hurt.

And then, to continue to act with love. To continue to forgive and risk hurting others and self once again. To beg mercy from those I have wronged. To love those I do not understand. To embrace those I once deemed my enemies. To recreate my family to include all.

For now, my heart runs with cold currents of righteousness, weakness, fear, seeking validation, perfection and victory. The journey is lengthy and I do not see the end, but I hope I will learn of the forgiveness unconditional love has birthed.