Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Bounty of Forgiveness (The Fast of Isaiah 58, Part IV)

To illustrate the difference between the acceptable fast and the fast that is abhorrent in Isaiah 58, my blog post yesterday  contrasted the pious, righteous elder son and the broken, penitent younger son in the story of the Prodigal Son.  The relation of the parable of the Prodigal to the Fast of Isaiah 58 is that, in both, the attitude of the penitent is the proper attitude.  When we acknowledge that all we have is not the result of our own works but rather flows from the grace of a loving and just God, our attitude toward all the rest of the world is transformed.  No longer do we self-righteously assert our entitlements.   Rather, we see the bounty of God’s love to us for what it is:  a gift; and it is a gift we want to share.  This attitude results in peace in ourselves, peace in our relationships with others, and peace within our society. 

Today, I’d like to point to a real-life story of how this has worked in the lives of two specific, modern people, Peter Woolf and Will Riley. 

woolf and riley
(photo from Daily Mail article, infra.)

Theirs is a story of offense, apology, and redemption.  Not only did Woolf break into the home of Riley, he also wounded him.  Riley, the righteous man in this story, could easily have chosen the path and attitude of self righteousness.  Instead, however, he chose to extend forgiveness.  In a video linked HERE, Woolf describes the effect this had on his life.  Fundamentally, the act of forgiveness – Riley’s act of extending grace – caused a transformation in Woolf.  Just like the Prodigal, Wolf turned! 

Now a penitent, he has found peace. 

In a recent Daily Mail UK news article (HERE), Woolf says,  “I can honestly say I’m happy now, but I never was before. I was lonely, but I haven’t felt lonely for a long time, and I’ll never regret going straight [giving up drugs and crime].  Most of my friends are now policemen or people working in the prison service. It’s surreal. Here I am a thief, vagabond and a scoundrel, and I’m on speaking terms with Princess Anne, who’s the patron of the Restorative Justice Council”  (accessed March 20, 2012).  This does not mean there were no consequences of the crime.  Woolf still served his jail time.  The real meaning is more significant than what was “done” to Woolf.  The most significant effect of Riley’s act of forgiveness is that it enabled Woolf to experience the power of God’s love for him, breaking the shackles of Woolf’s spiritual bondage. 

I wrote just a few weeks ago about forgiveness and apology.  It’s all tied up with self-righteousness and redemption.  And that is also all tied up with how we are to live in relationship with others.  The Fast of Isaiah 58 gives additional meaning to Romans 3:10: “There is no one righteous, no not one.”  The proper attitude for all of us, no matter who we are or what we have done, is one of penitence, which shall then be reflected in the way we live our lives.  Our entire life becomes an offering of thanksgiving and this, in turn, enables us to live in peace.  The Fast of Isaiah 58. 

Peter Woolf describes his experience with Restorative Justice

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