About forgiveness

Julian ends chapter 48 with the remark that “the mercy of God and the forgiveness is in order to abate and consume our wrath, not His” and in the following chapter, writing about the impossibility of God ever being angry, points out that “He who lays waste and destroys our wrath and makes us humble and gentle...He is always clothed in that same love, humble and gentle, which is opposite to wrath.”

Following Jesus, we are challenged to learn to live without constant recourse to wrath, which requires us to grow to a point where we would no longer have an identity that could be in rivalry with anyone or be in any way threatened by anything—in other words, to have our identity only in God’s love. As Julian notes, such freedom is a necessary part of our salvation: “to be like our Lord perfectly is our true salvation and our complete bliss” (chapter 77). That is the final point of a long process. But in order to begin “to become like our Lord”, we cannot treat the mercy we are given as something “earned” in some way, or something which others must then somehow “earn” from us.

It is only in giving mercy that we demonstrate we have received it, and not otherwise. Forgiveness is essentially love. It is love expressed as mercy, and it is essentially something given the way medicine is given—because something needs healing. God is the only one who can dispense this medicine without needing it himself—“to abate and consume our wrath, not His”—and it is always freely offered.

For us, it is a matter of becoming capable, of being given the power, to disrupt the cycle of continued wrath and suffering we experience as inevitable. It is always going to be a very individual, demanding, costly, and freely chosen effort, which no one but ourselves can require of us.

We can only offer ourselves to God’s action—to “seek, suffer (that is, allow), and trust.” And in that effort, God will supply for all that we fall short.

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