Simon Duffy

Thoughts, Bemusements & Arguments

Tag: forgiving

George MacDonald on Heaven and Plurality

George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Christian who wrote novels, poetry, sermons and fairy tales. He was an inspiration to C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden and G.K. Chesterton and one of the fathers of the literature of fantasy. Here are a few of his thought-provoking words:
We all know something nobody else knows

Everyone of us is something that the other is not, and therefore knows something – it may be without knowing that he knows it – which no one else know: and… it is everyone’s business, as on of the kingdom of light and inheritor in it all, to give his portion to the rest.

George MacDonald, The Inheritance
Conformity is a sign of decline

All wickedness tends to destroy individuality and declining natures assimilate as they sink.

George MacDonald, Alec Forbes, Volume III, Chapter 26
Persecution is born of fear we can’t defend our faith

Clara’s words appeared to me quite irrelevant… but what to answer here I did not know. I almost began to dislike her; for it is often incapacity for defending the faith they love which turns men into persecutors.

George MacDonald, Wilfred Cumbermede, Chapter 18
The usefulness of the moral law

Of what use then is the law? To lead us to Christ, the Truth – to waken in our minds a sense of what our deepest nature, the presence, namely of God in us, require – to let us know, in part by failure, that the purest efforts of will of which we are capable cannot lift us up even to abstaining from wrong to our neighbour.

George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Love Thine Enemy
To not forgive is spiritual murder

It may be infinitely less evil to murder a man than to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart’s choice. It is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling, that in our microcosm, kills the image, the idea of the hated.

George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, It Shall Not be Forgiven
The desirable immortality

To some minds the argument for immortality drawn from the apparently universal shrinking from annihilation is the one thing to be longed for, with all the might of longing which is the mainspring of human action. In a word, it is not immortality the human heart cries out after, but that immortal, eternal thought whose life is life, whose wisdom is wisdom… Dissociate immortality from the living Immortality, and it is not a thing to be desired.

George MacDonald, Wilfred Cumbermede, Chapter 58

Revenge Begets Revenge

Revenge begets revenge,
Truth spins and evaporates
As blood drains from the head.
It is the law of Zeus:
A life for a life.
What is human life worth?
More than itself, more than a life,
Or less? Or precisely the same?
The law of Zeus demands
A life for a life.
All – for all.
But this law of Zeus
Is a kind of disease
Inherited through the blood.
See how it has crazed
Every member of this house.

Aeschylus from Agamemnon (translated by Ted Hughes)

Justice is vital to society – ‘It is the law of Zeus’ – yet Justice can easily become a disease. Is there an answer: only forgiveness and mercy can end the craziness that Justice creates when it is unleashed without limits.

The Mohawk Prayer

“Because are human, we are going to mess up, we are going to make errors and omissions – so we are asking for your forgiveness in advance…”
My thanks Nan Carle for sharing this with me. It needs no commentary.

Justice and Mercy

“Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha said: Once when I entered into the innermost part [of the sanctuary] to offer incense I saw Akhateriel Yah,  [trans. the crown of God] seated upon a high and exalted throne. He said to me, “Ishmael, My son, bless Me!” I replied, “May it be Your will that Your mercy subdue Your wrath and Your mercy prevail over Your other attributes, so that You deal with Your children, according to the attribute of mercy; and may You, on their behalf, stop short of the limit of strict justice!” And He nodded His head toward me. Here we learn [incidentally] that the blessing of an ordinary man is not to be regarded lightly in our eyes.”

 From the Jewish Book of Legend

In the Jewish and Christian tradition we are all too aware that we need God to stop short of the demands of strict justice and that mercy must subdue God’s proper wrath.

The Quality of Mercy

“Rabbi Berekhiah said: When the Holy One was almost about to create Adam, he saw both the righteous and the wicked who were to issue from him. So He said: If I create him, wicked men will issue from; if I do not create him how are righteous men to be born? What did the Holy one do? He diverted the way of the wicked from before His sight, partnered the quality of mercy with Himself [saying to it, “Let us make man”], and then created him.”

 From the Jewish Book of Legend

The idea that God must remove the wicked from his sight means that he is prepared to overlook all our sins. This is mercy. This is forgiveness. This is absolute.

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