Who is in your family tree? When I first read the word “genealogy” in the context of philosophy it took me a bit to overcome my default understanding of the term. Nuanced rightly, genealogy simply invites the reader to look up the line be it a family tree or a developing philosophy. When I read Luke 15:5-10 for this week’s Revised Common Lectionary passage I wonder about the genealogy of forgiveness as I include 15:1-4.
More than two years after my first real reading pf Derrida, I still reflect on his contention there is no forgiveness if there is an unforgivable. In other words, if there is something we will not forgive then there is no forgiveness for anything. We, Christians, generally retreat to the initiation of forgiveness in the “repentance” of the offending party. That is, we often consider forgiveness only after we look for its stipulated ground – repentance. I often wonder if this is not a means to divert our attention away from just how difficult it is for us to be formed to forgive. If I can turn the gaze to the offender, then I need not consider the act of forgiveness until my offender makes the “first move.”
It is odd that many a commenter on the Luke 15 passage wants to suddenly make Luke something of a disjointed story teller. That is, some see no relationship between the omitted first four verses from the Lectionary selection and look to Matthew to help with the “little faith” of the Apostles. But, that seems to make Luke’s stated intention of offering an orderly account to suddenly become disorderly.
For my read, the issue of forgiveness and the entirety of the suggested texts tie together in the life and Way of Jesus. There are times where Jesus declares the forgiveness of sin apart from an apparent move of repentance. The often embattled story referred to as the “Woman Caught In Adultery” did nto come repentant but instead as a rouse for a trap. Once the accusers are gone, Jesus charges her to go and leave your life of sin. Or, consider the lesser questioned instance of Jesus being questioned as to his authority to forgive sins. Before healing the paralytic he announces forgiveness. There is not description of “repentance.” That is, unless we are understanding the very act of coming to Jesus for healing is the move of repentance. However, Jesus says to his adversaries that in order to demonstrate he has the authority to forgive sins he announces the lame man whole. Not every instance of forgiveness in the Scriptures comes complete with a well-described act of repentance.
So, the Luke passage is not about those coming in repentance though he does tell the Apostles they must forgive the one who comes repenting. No, the selection ties the need for a growing faith with the act of following Jesus’ Way of forgiveness. Listen to the podcast. What are your thoughts?