Thursday, February 21, 2019

Auden: forgiveness

Thursday, February 21, 2019
    Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
    —Luke 23:34a (NIV)
    Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner. (“To know all is to forgive all.”) No commonplace is more untrue. Behavior, whether conditioned by an individual neurosis or by society, can be understood, that is to say, one knows exactly why such and such an individual behaves as he does. But a personal action or deed is always mysterious. When we really act, precisely because it is a matter of free choice, we can never say exactly why we do this rather than that. But it is only deeds that we are required to forgive. If someone does me an injury, the question of forgiveness only arises if I am convinced (a) that the injury he did me was a free act on his part and therefore no less mysterious to him than to me, and (b) that it was me personally whom he meant to injure. Christ does not forgive the soldiers who are nailing him to the Cross; he asks the Father to forgive them. He knows as well as they do why they are doing this—they are a squad, detailed to execute a criminal. They do not know what they are doing, because it is not their business, as executioners, to know whom they are crucifying.
    If the person who does me an injury does not know what he is doing, then it is as ridiculous for me to talk about forgiving him as it would be for me to “forgive” a tile which falls on my head in a gale.
    ... W. H. Auden (1907-1973), A Certain World, London: Faber and Faber, 1971, p. 167-168 (see the book)
    See also Luke 23:34; Gen. 50:7; Matt. 5:44; 6:12; Luke 6:27-28; 23:47-48; Acts 7:60; Rom. 12:14; 1 Pet. 2:20-23; 3:9
Quiet time reflection:
    Lord, teach me forgiveness.
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