Pardon vs Grace

I have recently been on a “Netflix marathon watching “The Ghost Whisper”. It was a show that I did not watch when it originally aired and have caught an episode or two here and there over the years.   A few weeks ago I caught a couple of episodes and decided that I would like to see this series in its entirety. Hence, the Netflix marathon has been happening at our home, much to my poor husband’s annoyance. I believe that the reason this series has appealed to me lately has to do with the idea of pardon that I had been thinking a lot about. In this series, Melinda is a “sensitive” that can see ghosts and can help the ghost find closure in this life and move on into the light and find peace. It seems that most of the ghosts unfinished business has to do with seeking to receive or give forgiveness to those they are leaving behind. This idea that in order to find peace in this life or the next we need to be about the business of forgiving.

Pardon is defined: when used as a noun-a kind indulgence, as in forgiveness of an offense or discourtesy or when used as a verb- to release (a person) from liability for an offense.

We usually think of the word pardon in relation to the law and official pardoning of criminal acts committed by prominent people who are given a clean slate.   When we release an inmate on parole this is just a “we see you are trying to change, but we do not trust you fully”, kind of release from their punishment. They are not absolved of their crime, it is still branded into their record and all over their life.

I have been thinking about pardon a bit more personally considering how this fits into my faith and relationship with others and God. We know we are supposed to forgive, we know that we are forgiven by God, but I believe the concept of pardon takes forgiveness a step or two further. To me, a pardon is the excusing of an offense without exacting a penalty for the offense. This reminds me a little more of grace…according to the Book of Common Prayer “Grace is God’s favor toward us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills”. I like the quote by Joseph Prince, which says, “The law condemns the best of us; but grace saves the worst of us.

As Christians, we speak of grace and forgiveness but by definition we cannot as humans bestow the gift of grace on others. This is where I believe we can expand our duty of forgiveness to others through the act of pardon. Pardon is not saying that an offense was not committed against us or that the person is not guilty of the offense, but it is an act of taking our forgiveness to the next level and letting the offender free from our punishment. Pardon becomes a little more like grace when we can let go of the need to punish others for their offenses against us. We can let go of our need to inflict guilt and shame and approach our offender with the spirit of reconciliation. While I acknowledge that there are offenses or offenders that it may not be prudent or healthy to allow to be in a relationship with us anymore. I believe we can pardon the offense and avoid the person. We wipe the slate clean for others and allow them to be free of our personal punishment for their offense and allowing them the opportunity to start fresh. Phillip Yancy said once “Mercy is not getting what you deserve while grace is getting what you do not deserve”. He said, “grace elevates us, God judges us as if we had never sinned through the filter of Jesus”. He continues with, “grace implies a risk, the risk we might abuse it, yet God seems quite willing to take that risk”, “grace is unfair, we deserve God’s wrath and get God’s love, deserve punishment and get forgiveness. This is the same with pardon, we take a risk to offer to pardon to someone who has hurt or offended us, but the same gift has been given to us through grace. We might get hurt or offended again, but we are better for having forgiven the 70 times 7 times that Jesus commanded. When we set others free by pardoning them, we are setting ourselves free. We no longer have to be about the business of score keeping of offenses and remembering how long we have decided that this offending person should be banished from our good graces. And in this freedom, we can bask in the grace that God has given us so that we may allow God to enlighten our heart, stir our minds and strengthen our will to better serve Him.

©Amber E Keithley 2015

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