Hauerwas draws us into the seven last words. The first is the pronouncement of forgiveness. He states; "We are at once drawn to these words, but we fear taking them into our hands, realizing we cannot comprehend their power." (p26) Hauerwas' words seem leap off the page for me. It is hard to comprehend that we are forgiven for every thought, every word, every deed that wounds our relationship with God and others. It is hard to comprehend that as a forgiven people we are also called to forgive others as well. I like the idea of being forgiven. It is much harder to forgive those that hurt the ones of I love.
Hauerwas also challenges our temptation to make the cross all about us. He states; "We think it is really simple: Jesus had to die because we needed and need to be forgiven. But, ironically, such a focus shifts attention from Jesus to us. This is a fatal turn, I fear, because as soon as we begin to think this is all about us, about our need for forgiveness, bathos drapes the cross, hiding from us the reality that here we first and foremost see God." (p27-28) It is critical that we remember that the cross is first and foremost and always an act of God - a choice of God. Forgiveness rains down not because it is deserved or claimed, but because it is founded in the very nature of God. God makes the way for forgiveness. Instead of a symbol of Roman cruelty it becomes the means of grace. We look away from Jesus on the cross not because of the brutality of the scene but instead because we "embarrassed by a love so publicly displayed" (p29) and so powerfully displayed.
God help me to gaze long enough at the cross to find myself forever drawn to the power of your love and grace.
Grace and Peace, Tom