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“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans and myself from the community of sinners.” Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace (Abingdon Press, 1996).* 

How do you and I respond when confronted with people’s bad or evil behaviour—in our lives or on the news? It’s so easy to label people. We might use words like: monsters; animals; dogs; pigs; sloths; worms; cockroaches; monkeys; amoebas; clowns; scum; filth (or worse).  These terms categorise people as less than human. Have you said or thought things like this? Sometimes it just slips out.  

But that’s not how God sees people who’ve done wrong. He sees them just like us—as flawed humans in need of a new heart.  

It’s great to reread the story of David and Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 11 and 12). I reckon this is one of the most striking stories in the bible. It reminds us that all people—even David, a man after God’s own heart—can behave monstrously. And it reminds us that “monsters” can be forgiven, can repent. It reminds us that the community of humans and the community of sinners—all sinners—completely overlap.  

As we live in superiority, and judgement of others—rather than humble identification with them—then condemnation will reign, and forgiveness is lost. The great news is that Jesus fully identified with us, becoming human and becoming sin. Through his work we are we are free, given a new heart, and now we are called to forgive. 

— 

*  I’ve been reflecting on this wonderful quote, from Croatian-American theologian Miroslav Volf, since Josiah Wilson mentioned it in his sermon on Ephesians 4-5 a few weeks ago. 

Geoff Pryde – Creek Road Campus. 

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