Posted: September 30, 2016 by Rob Voyle
In this week's Gospel the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. In Luke's Gospel this request comes directly after Jesus has told the disciples that they need to forgive, and forgive, and forgive someone who repeatedly offends (Luke 17:4).
Whether Luke intended any connection between the saying about staying in a state of forgiveness and the disciples request for an increase in faith is unclear to me. Luke's Gospel often seems like he had lots of sayings of Jesus and parables that he couldn't leave out and so he puts them in somewhere, so there may not have been a connection between these two verses.
However, in my current mission of teaching the world to forgive, I can see a significant connection. For many people the idea of forgiving requires an enormous amount of faith when they are living on the dark side of a mountain of resentment.
Also interesting is the disciples request, "increase our faith!" But the object of that faith is not stated. Possibly they are asking for an increase in faith in God. But maybe they are not asking for extra faith in an external God but an increase in their own ability and belief that they would be able to forgive repeatedly.
Jesus tells the disciples if they had faith the size of a mustard see they could tell mulberry trees to take a hike, and in Matthew's Gospel you could move mountains.
Over the years the one area where my faith has grown astronomically is in the area of helping people learn how to rapidly achieve and sustain a state of forgiveness. Usually it only takes one session, and in many cases it can be done without my ever knowing the story of what somebody did. I have the faith that I can move mountains of resentment, in large part because I have, and nothing builds faith like success.
It is not uncommon after a forgiveness retreat for people to say that they have set themselves free of years, often decades, of resentment, and that they now feel lighter, can breathe now and various aches and pains in shoulders and limbs have gone. One of the coolest stories was of a UCC minister who had come to a training and gone back to his congregation and helped a person free themselves from 65 years of resentment.
I will readily admit that there are lots of others things in myself or the lives of the people whom I encounter where I have very little faith in my ability to even move a mole hill of misery. But not so with resentment.
I often hear people say that they can't forgive and my response is simple: "You are right you can't (they really are right because if they had been able to forgive they would have) and then to continue, "would you like me to teach you how."
I have found that is useless to argue with the assertion they can't forgive, or tell people that they should forgive. In fact telling someone that they should forgive when they have told you they can't is just giving them one more person to resent. What we need to do is teach and empower people how to forgive.
One of the biggest things we need to teach people that forgiveness is not reconciliation, they are two very different things. Forgiveness is how you respond to what has happened to you in the past. It is totally independent of the person who has hurt you.
Reconciliation is an agreement between two or more people about how they will live and work together in the future. Without forgiveness there can be no reconciliation. Even with forgiveness there are some people you don't want to be reconciled with. I forgive the Hitlers of this world but I will never be reconciled to them or their mission.
If you want to grow your faith in your ability to move mountains of resentment I encourage you to attend one of the upcoming forgiveness training programs.
Or if you know someone who needs to learn how to forgive I am also leading forgiveness retreats in:
The full schedule and registration for all programs can be found at: Training Schedule
With blessings on your life and work and with a prayer that at the end of your days, or even before, you hear the heavens proclaim: "Well done!"
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute
P.S. If you are interested in joining in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church please let me know.
The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.
Rob's Approach to Training