I chose just the right book to read on vacation to accompany our theme of peace and to align with our visit to the Nobel Peace Center. Reflecting back on my post about the laureates, the one thing I didn’t mention in my (ever-changing, evolving) definition of peace is forgiveness and lament.
Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith by Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson, and Soong-Chan Rah focuses on the major injustices perpetrated by the American Evangelical community. Covering seven chapters, environment, indigenous people, racism, women’s rights, LGBTQ, immigrants, and Jewish and Muslim people, the book gives the historical contexts and evolutions of Christian thought and perspective for each issue, discusses some of the theological implications, and then points to the hope we have in reconciliation and lamenting the injustices of the past.
Throughout the book, the authors constantly reference the sanctity of the Imago Dei in every person. As I said in my post about the Peace Center, peace is about recognizing and honoring the image of God in every person. And this book again and again brings us back to that Imago Dei, reminding us that all people were created in the image of God and dishonoring any person dishonors God himself.
And as I think about this, I realize that repenting and lamenting the injustices of the past are crucial to moving on toward peace. With humility, we must admit our sins and ask for forgiveness to reconcile our relationships with those whom we’ve wronged. We cannot continue to ignore the wrongs that have been committed, hoping that time will be enough.
Reconciliation is not easy but the difference it makes is significant. When we wrong someone we love, it is often a hard thing to say, “I shouldn’t have, I’m sorry, I love you and I want to make it right.” Those words recognize the image of God in the other person. Those words honor their dignity, their feelings, and their wholeness. Those words make us vulnerable, and the other person may request something from us that we don’t want to give, so we avoid these interactions. But when actually do this and honor that person, the relationship deepens. The trust deepens. The love builds and God is honored. It works for our relationships with those we love, and it works on the larger scale with communities whom we’ve wronged. It brings peace on the small scale and peace on the large scale.
I learned a lot from this book and I know it’s one that I will go back to again and again to remind myself of the humility needed when approaching issues of how our faith has impacted the world.