The Word on the Week


The burial of Martin McGuinness this week brought to a premature end his working towards political stability in Northern Ireland. The rare illness which removed him so swiftly was unforeseen. The reconfiguring of his Party continues.
McGuinness died at the age of 66 having spent the last 50 plus years bound up with what is euphemistically known as ‘the troubles’. The earlier part of his life he was a ‘freedom fighter’ or ‘terrorist’, (depending on your viewpoint), which provided the platform for his political authority over the last 20 years.

He was recognised as a good negotiator who kept his word and could be relied upon to bring his party with him even in difficult decisions. His working friendship with his previous arch-enemy Rev Ian Paisley provided an example of two leaders who recognised and shared qualities with the other.

McGuinness’s loyalty to his friends in the Bogside of Derry and those who supported ‘the cause’ was reflected in his ongoing refusal to denounce the IRA’s campaign. It also meant that many dark deeds go to the grave with him.

At the funeral and subsequently many have spoken words of forgiveness while others have been unable to forgive and ascribed to themselves God’s task of judge. Others have laid on some imaginary scales the bad and the good parts of his life and concluded that the good outweigh the bad. Some maintain it’s how one ends ones days that matters and conclude he was all right in the end.

For the Christian, that is one who has been forgiven by God his own massive debt, to forgive is the reflex action extended to the person who acknowledges his guilt and asks for forgiveness. Jesus sharpens the focus by his parable which illustrated what happens then this forgiveness is withheld (St Matthew Chapter 18 verses 23 – 35).

Where the guilty one does not acknowledge he is in the wrong forgiveness cannot flow but we can pray for them as Jesus did (St Matthew Chapter 23 verse 34). All sin is ultimately against God (Psalm 51 verse 4) and only God can forgive (St Mark Chapter 2 verse 7).

There must be a willingness in us to forgive the one who has sinned against us. Jesus showed us this in his model prayer in which he said his forgiveness to us (when we confess our sins to him) is conditional on our forgiving the one who has wronged us (St Matthew Chapter 6 verses 12 -15).

It is good to remind ourselves of where the Christian’s sins have ended up and be grateful.
‘And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.’ Colossians Chapter 2 verses 13 -14).