Good old Jesus. As he hung upon that cross, cursing his lawyer and lamenting the fact that he would never get his hands on an Easter egg, he was magnanimous enough to forgive the nasty people who had conspired to murder him. But as you might expect, many Christians have failed to measure up to Christ’s example in the 2,000 years since he died for our sins. Some people seem to find forgiving those who don’t indicate properly at roundabouts difficult enough, so it comes as little surprise to hear that a 9/11 widow’s struggled to make her peace with the hi-jackers.
In What’s The Point of Forgiveness? historian Bettany Hughes explores various notions of forgiveness and asks why so many Christians have found it difficult to uphold Christ’s final teachings. Hughes seems happy to talk to religious scholars about some of the Church’s failings, but discussions with the Archbishop of Canterbury are purely theological. He and the Chief Rabbi (who appears during the obligatory Holocaust section..) would have faced tougher questions if they’d sat an R.E GCSE exam. Oh well, it would probably have been a bit insensitive of the Beeb to offend his excellency at Easter – although they would surely have been forgiven..
Despite the gentle tones, it quickly becomes apparent that most early Christians were about as forgiving as a policeman who’s been kicked in the arse. “Would Jesus recognise his ideas on forgiveness in the early church?” says Rev Dr Grant Bayliss, an expert on Christian martyrs. “I can’t help feeling he might have been a little bit disappointed.” Bethany Hughes can’t help but agree, yet as she examines changing attitudes in recent years she claims that there is hope for the future. “It’s only now, 2,000 years after Jesus, that we are beginning to grasp the full potential of forgiveness,” she explains. Really? Come back Jesus!