INTRODUCTION Prisoner and
imprisoned for the same reason his entire family had been murdered—his
race (nothing else)—was called into a hospital room where a soldier
from among the oppressors lay, his life draining out from a war hole. Caked
in crusted and rancid bandages, the oppressor sputtered this painful plea:
I was in an elite unit. A land mine killed thirty of our men. In revenge,
we herded three hundred of your people into a building; men, women, children;
doused it with gasoline; and set it on fire. Those who fled we shot. I remember
specifically a mother, a father, and a small boy. The parents, covering the
child's eyes, ran outside. All were screaming. I shot them dead. I can't
get away from the sight and sound of that family and their screams. And now,
as I am dying, I beg forgiveness from someone of your race. Without it, I
cannot die in peace. Please, please, forgive me!
The prisoner stared at the heaving mass of hard bandage (in two spots damp
with tears). No word dripped from his lips into the ears slowly dying before
him. The only sounds were his feet shuffling toward the door and the cries
squeaking out of the crusty bandages.
What would you, or what should you, have done? As a Christian, whose
own sins have been forgiven—and who believes that, at the cross,
Jesus had bore the sins of this oppressor (including his massacre of the
men, women, and children)—were you not obligated to forgive?
Though the Lord commands, even demands, that we forgive, does He mean to
forgive even this? If He does demand it, is a forgiveness that comes only
because it is demanded true forgiveness?
On the other hand, "Forgiveness to the injured does belong," wrote poet John
Dryden. Was it even the prisoner's place to forgive what had been done to
others? What made the prisoner the proxy for those who, even if they would
have forgiven, could not because they were dead?
Whatever the answer, even in the best of situations, forgiveness doesn't
come easy. If it takes so much for us to forgive an unkind word, a rebuff,
a cold shoulder, an insult, or curse, what did it take for God to forgive
our lusts, our murders, our cruelty, our hatred, our crimes, our violence,
and even, if need be, our mass murders?
The Cross, of course, is what it took—and if Christ bearing the
sins of the world does not make us see what forgiveness costs, nothing will.
Even more so, if the penalty for the world's sin falling on the Sin Bearer
does not help us see how crucial forgiveness is to this universe, what will?
This quarter's Bible Study Guide, based on the work of Geoffrey Game, examines
the difficult but inescapable question that confronts us all every day: What
does it mean to be (in a sense) both prisoner and oppressor; that is, both
in need of getting and giving forgiveness?
Such a simple word. Such a basic word. Such a common word. Just a few syllables
uttered from the tongue, a few scratches scrawled from the tip of a pen,
that is all. Yet, how much power, how much potential, how much healing exists
within those few sounds and scratches. How many lives would be so much different,
so much better, so much happier and richer, were forgiveness written into
the variables that made up the equations of their personal existence?
Forgiveness. It's double-edged. Its force pushes in two directions, forward
and backward. It impacts the subject (those who forgive) as well as the object
(those who are forgiven). It radiates in all directions, reaching out and
caressing those who, if nothing else, stand on the sidelines and see what
forgiveness does to those on either end of this divine blessing.
Perhaps this whole quarter's Bible Study Guide should be titled "Sandwiched."
Because as Christians, we are sandwiched in by forgiveness: the forgiveness
that we have received from Christ and the forgiveness that we, having received,
give to others. The attendant blessings are manifold: the blessings that
we have received from God, the blessings that we give to others because of
what we have received from God, and the blessings that we get back when we
give to others. Not a bad wrap, all things considered.
This quarter, we will try to consider, if not all things about forgiveness
(that will take eternity, and we have only three months), as much as limits
of time and space allow. We will study forgiveness from two perspectives,
that of subject and of object, because, as Christians, we become both. We
are the object of God's forgiveness, and because of that forgiveness, we
become the subject, giving forgiveness to those who perhaps are as undeserving
as we are.
First, we will look at what it means to be forgiven by God; what it means
for us that, no matter what we've done, no matter how ugly our record, we
can stand before our Creator forgiven, justified, pardoned, and cleansed
by the blood of Jesus.
Second, we will look at what happens in the lives of those who have been
What does that forgiveness do to us? How does it change us? What does
it motivate us to do for others?
Forgiveness. It comes with such a heavy price tag: the blood of Christ of
Christ. Yet, as we will see over the next few months, no one can afford to
be without it.
(all lessons may not be posted)
Giardina Sabbath School
Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl, prepares a
series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes all related
scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New King James Version"
of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission. The study
helps are provided in three wordprocessing versions
Word; RTF for our MAC friends; and
HTML (Web Pages).
Last updated on May 21, 2003
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