“Tell your sister your sorry.” I’ve had it said to me. I’ve said it to my daughters. And not once in 34 years do I believe that the apology which followed was genuine. In those circumstances, “I’m sorry,” usually gets spoken with an undercurrent of disdain. “I’m sorry I have to tell you I’m sorry,” is usually what that means. I know it. My kids know it. And Jesus knew it.
And so, in teaching his disciples about what forgiveness looks like for those who claim residence in the Kingdom of God, Jesus is very clear on from where that forgiveness flows. “Unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
From the cross, Jesus cried out to his heavenly Father that he might forgive his accusers and executioners for they knew not what they were doing. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t actually mean it. No lip service of forgiveness. No disdain underlying his words. True, honest, forgiveness that, as the picture above suggests, flowed straight from his heart. It is no coincidence that when Jesus quotes the Shema and gives the Great Commandment to “love the Lord your God” he does so by naming the heart first. The heart is the source of love and forgiveness and is the most common image for the residence of the Holy Spirit. The heart is where God dwells within each of us. True forgiveness flows from the heart because it is within our hearts that we know the fullness of our having been forgiven. That doesn’t make forgiveness easy, but it certainly makes it genuine, and that is the sort of forgiveness that Jesus calls for.