“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not die but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Forgiveness is such a common word. It used or thought of often in regard to other people we know or hear about. It’s used in sports; golfers like to play with “forgiving clubs.” A forgiving golf club allows the user not have the perfect or best swing but still be able to hit the ball pretty well anyway. (I use them!)
Forgiveness is also the ability to let go angers and grievances we hold against others or ourselves. The Greek word, aphiemi, has the idea of “sending away,” even sounding like it when spoken, ah FEE ay me. A key verse illustrating this is in the little book of 1 John, chapter 2, verse 12: “Your sins have been forgiven (sent away) you for His name’s sake.” We know that to carry guilt and anger in our mind will go into the body and cause disease and death. We need to “send anger and guilt away” with the image of putting them on scapegoats as in the “Day of Atonement” rituals from the ancient Hebrews. But what are some major causes of guilt and anger that keep us hanging on to our sins, our anger and unhappiness?
For one, we need to forgive ourselves for taking the world so seriously, so literally. The world is an ephemeral, constantly moving, changing entity. If we try to hold and think of it too seriously, it will hurt and destroy one’s peace of mind. We thus forgive ourselves for putting so much stock in this transient world. This is not easy; just listen to the news and observe your sense of anger and disgust rise!
Compared to reality, the physical world is a passing illusion; it isn’t real. It is a passing entity as we all know, but forget. If you have lived many years, you realize how fast we change along with the surrounding world. Our lives are but a short flash in the darkness. A few years among the trillions are hardly a noticeable blink.
“The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span* is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)
Happiness is sending away our hope and trust in a temporary world and universe. We forgive it for not being what we might have liked or expected. The Natives often said, “Only the rocks will last.” Yet that isn’t even true. They also away.
Forgiveness for happiness means we work at not taking our bodies so seriously. Our bodies are also part of this mortal world. They just last much shorter in time. They are part of the short blink in a world of mortality. The body is not who we are; thinking so means we never will be happy for long. We are always trying to repair, fix, change or make the body more comfortable, to last a little longer. It’s a hopeless cause. Looking at birthday cards the other day I saw one showing a young woman with a very large breast. The caption said, “I had my one breast enlarged and it looks so great I have decided now to have the other one done!”
It is not that bodies are inherently bad, as the Church taught for so many centuries. It’s just they are nothing in the long, or short run. The Church has taught appetites such as sex and hunger, especially sex, as evil and bad. In themselves they are to be enjoyed for the short duration we exist in these temporary “houses.” Sex and hunger aren’t evil; they just are and it’s how we use and enjoy them that can actually help awaken and strengthen us. “Sexual pleasure” is but a foretaste of our moving back one day into complete awareness of ourselves as One in Spirit. If you become too old or weak for it, at least remember if rightly meditating and practicing detachment, you’ll feel it perhaps even more strongly!
We also forgive ourselves for believing God wants to punish us and make life here dull and unhappy, without dance, laughter, sex and enjoyment. As a young teen, I was told not to play ball or swim on Sundays because God would be mad at me! God wants to be happy and free. God just doesn’t want us to get stuck here. One of our readings today is the old familiar one: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) What does this mean?
In the book “A Course in Miracles” it says a helpful way of understanding this verse is to read it, “For God so loved the world that He gave it to His only begotten Son….” It means our Creator, God, Allah, Bahalula, et. al. created us free and with the ability to choose. We are the Sons or Daughters of God it refers to. If we choose or want to journey off into a strange foreign country, such as the world we see and experience here, we are given that freedom. God to be God gives freedom! Yet while here in this dream, we can awaken and realize we don’t have to perish here but are still able live in “everlasting, eternal life!”
Sure, while here we have lots of troubles with disease and suffering, but we can always choose again to remember who we are. Our true essence doesn’t perish, indeed it can’t; it’s one with the Eternal Creator! So love the world and let it be as it is with birth and death, abundance and scarcity, joy and sadness and all its polarities. Remember though your gift of being something else; Spirit, God’s Daughter or Son or Child.
No, we are not condemned by God for coming here, we condemned ourselves.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son (us) into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18)
To live here in ignorance of our Divinity is to be unhappy and condemned to misery and hopelessness already. We are the very Son of God in our essence!
So to be happy in God is to recognize and understand your Holy Divinity which is as true and as eternal as God. As our Source, we never left It! God is our Cause and we are the Effect! We only left our Source in our sleep of forgetfulness. It’s like we are walking around in a deep fog forgetting that just above and all around is the sun blazing in warm brightness.
Returning home to joy through forgiveness of our own ignorance may seem to be an insult. It is so simple but insulting on our pride and sense of “mastering our fates.” It’s as close as a choice, an acknowledgement of our Self. In the early Christian book of Ephesians it says,
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Eph. 2:4-10)
It’s just so simple it’s hard to believe. But we all have the opportunity, the potential to choose this, forgive ourselves for years of strain and unhappiness, and be free, wherever we are, and in whatever condition we find ourselves. It’s as simple as the prodigal son choosing to return to home to his father, or the lost child returning to the waiting parent.
A few days ago Naomi and I watched the movie “Dhamma Brothers”, which was a true story of two Buddhist teachers given permission to enter an Alabama Maximum Security Prison and lead volunteer prisoners on a 10 day meditation discipline called “Vipassana.” The prisoners were asked to sit in quiet meditation for 10 hours a day for 10 days. Their minds were to be focused primarily on their breath and thus wait for any sense of transformation or peace. It worked! After four years, despite protests from area fundamentalist Christians, they returned and many of the original volunteers were found still with a deep sense of peace and eternal Presence.
Prisoner, business man, hurried religious leader, housewife, yoga teacher, sex addict, sex-abuser, murderer, social crusader, whatever; the choice is ours to listen and receive. How can you tell you have recognized your Divinity within? By the giving up, the sending way of anger and hatred toward others; prison guards, employers, employees, church leaders, church followers, Popes, Executives, Bishops, sex-abusers, Republicans, Democrats, President Obama, Rick Santorum, whoever.
Learn to accept and live in peace today. Practice it each day in remembrance and mind-training. Let the world be what it is; ephemeral, violent at times, storm-less at other times. Let it go and be Who you are, the Eternal Son and Daughter of God with the power of choice. You will much happier, and if you and I are That, the world will be a nicer journey along the way.
“Forgiveness is the means by which we will remember. Through forgiveness the thinking of the world is reversed. The forgiven world becomes the gate of Heaven, because by its mercy we can at last forgive ourselves. Holding no one prisoner to guilt, we become free. Acknowledging Christ in all our brothers, we recognize His Presence in ourselves. Forgetting all our misperceptions, and with nothing from the past to hold us back, we can remember God. Beyond this, learning cannot go. When we are ready, God Himself will take the final step in our return to Him.” (ACIM, Preface, “What It Says,” xiii.)
Talk presented at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, NY, March 18, 2012.