We’ve just finished watching ‘Disgrace’ – a film based on J. M. Coetzee’s novel of the same name.

Quite a film… and clearly not one put out by the South African tourist board.

It tells the story of  David Lurie – lecturer from Cape Town who is driven by his passions. After being ‘asked to resign’ from his post at a University following an affair with a student he heads off to spend time with his daughter, near Grahamstown.

Things go from bad to worse for Lurie. He and his daughter are attacked, and his daughter is raped, while Lurie does (can do?) nothing to protect her.

A strong theme that comes out in the film is that of repentance and forgiveness. When Lurie is brought before an inquiry at the University he holds his hands up as guilty, however does not want to jump through the boards hoops of public sorrow. He is content to be driven by his passions, even if others are not. The father of the girl he has had an affair with comes looking for him calling him to face up to things. Later in the film Lurie goes to the father and asks his, and his family’s forgiveness for what he has done.

But at the same time Lurie cannot bring himself to forgive the men who raped his daughter. He finds one of them, who is just a boy and clearly mentally disturbed, peaking into the house while his daughter is having a shower. He proceeds to beat the boy, calling him a swine. He cannot understand why his daughter would want to keep the child she is now carrying as a result of this rape, nor why she does not report the rape to the authorities.

He wants forgiveness, but cannot give forgiveness.

A story not unlike one Jesus told. And a story not unlike my own heart. Why do we find it so hard to forgive others, even when we have been forgiven so much?

It really makes you realise how radical the gospel is. To call us to lay aside our claims of retribution and to utterly forgive others? We started looking at 1 Peter this morning at our gathering, and that book really challenged and helped me through a particularly hard part of my life when I was struggling to forgive.

But here’s the thing. The gospel not only challenges us to be radical and forgive because we’ve been forgiven, but it also enables us to forgive. The gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe – and not simply a salvation from something, but a salvation to something. It is through that gospel as the Spirit takes it and changes my cold heart to be like our saviours, that I can start forgiving as he forgave.

I am always, always amazed when I think about Jesus hanging on the cross, being killed by his enemies, and saying ‘Father forgive…’ There is the power to forgive, and I know no other.

The chorus of a song I wrote a while back goes something like this:

‘Oh Lord, Help me to forgive

Help me see my heart

for what it truly is.

Lord, Help me to love

Help me see the heart of your Son

The heart of the cross.’