Community formation as a key practice of the Ukrainian baptist communities

Formation of a religious community living together. The impact of the formation of the community of practice in modern conditions in the context of Community Baptist. Humility as a guide path, forming relationships and types of activity of the commune.

26.11.2014
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In the light of these considerations, someone can ask, Is it possible to follow this example of God? Someone can answer strongly, We must follow it without any objections and exceptions! I have heard a lot of such answers. However, then in reality those people did not follow their own words of we must do it. It is so easy to say, but I think that it is much harder to do it in the context of relationships between people, because it seems hardly possible to talk about being friends with God and friends with fellow human beings in the same breath. Lina, Andronoviene, `I Have Called You Friends': On a Theology of Friendship, in Parush R. Parushev, Ovidiu Creanga and Brian Brock (eds.), Ethical Thinking at the Crossroads of European Reasoning: Proceedings of the Third Annual Theological Symposium of the International Postgraduate Theological Fellowship (Praha, CZ: IBTS, 2007), p. 115. McCarthy argues that the answer could be found if we look more carefully at the nature of the love of God and the love of people. These natures are incomparable. D. M. McCarthy, Sex and love in the home, p. 141. He makes very interesting association that these two types of love are like the love between a human being and an animal. Ibid., p. 141. The love of people always is connected with something. It cannot be without any connections with some attractive objects. We love because of something.

On the contrary, the love of God has another nature. God is the subject of love. God's love is not moved by or attracted to an object of love, but is the source of its being. God is not moved by but is the cause of love's movement. God is not attracted by but makes attractive. Ibid., p. 142. It is a crucial point in the understanding of the concept of reciprocity. As it was said before, God is the subject of love. However, this subject is communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Ibid., p. 142. The aim of God's love is to make the possibility for people to be participants in that communion. Then, this open room gives us the possibility to share the love of God in a new way with other people. D. M. McCarthy, Sex and love in the home, pp. 142-143.

Sharing ourselves in the community of koinonia implies a daily fellowship. A. G. Gish, Living in Christian Community, p. 89. The faith communities should keep day-to-day connections between the people within it. It could be simply visiting, sending messages, or calling just to ask, How are you doing? It is really important point for strengthening friendship between each other. I have heard many times when people complained that no one was trying to ask them how they are doing when they missed worship services. Gish says that even missing of one meeting by one fellow member should be a push for concern. Ibid., p. 90.

In the same time, Sunday worship services should be as just one of the opportunities to meet together as a community. It is not enough for deepening relationships. People can use different other activities for it. Here I would like to highlight three spheres. Ibid., p. 91. First of all, it is eating and drinking together. It was said a lot about this issue before. However, again I want to make a point that it should happen as often as possible. In the second place, Christians should assign time and space just for playing together. It brings the dimension of joy and happiness of being present with each other. In such sphere of activity we can reveal each other in a new way. This time spending together in playing can help to break down some walls between people. It could sound strange, but playing together also has an implication of healing relationships. Finally, in the third place, I want to focus on the process of working together. In this context people have an opportunity to learn how to live with each other, how to accept each other, and how to trust to each other. All these different activities give an opportunity for the faith communities to grow and develop.

1.3.2 Listening as a gesture of presence

Antonio Donghi defines listening as the fundamental activity of human beings. A. Donghi, Words and Gestures in the Liturgy, p. 28. It is the form of communication. Therefore, listening to others is a crucial part of the sharing ourselves. A. G. Gish, Living in Christian community, p. 67. It is an activity of those people who have a desire to communication with others. A. Donghi, Words and Gestures in the Liturgy, p. 28. Thus, listening should a fundamental activity for Christian communities as well.

Those communities which are able and available to listen will be aware about things which are going within the community. Therefore, they could respond on the needs of people in the proper way by that ability to listen. A. G. Gish, Living in Christian community, p. 67. In the community of koinonia people need to feel themselves free to tell others their story; and people should make sure that they will be listened and understood. To create such place is the role of the community. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 214. The community of fellowship should be a place of learning how to speak, and a place of learning how to listen. K. Granberg-Michaelson, Healing community, p. 82. This ability and willingness of listening shows humility and readiness of a leader to acknowledge his or her mistakes and faults. http://www.k-istine.ru/psychology/orthodox_psychology-08.htm, accessed 15 April 2013. However, there is quite often that the church leadership is not able to listen to the other members of community, and honestly do not want to do it. These leaders are afraid to listen, because they are afraid that it can bring some changes in their kingdom. Therefore, they try to put rules and regulations everywhere. However, I think that it is a huge weakness of such communities, because one of the foundations of healthy faith community is ability and willingness to listen.

It is a work process of learning how to listen. In my essay The True Meaning of Being on the Top of Pyramid of Leadership I defined it as the discipline of learning to listen. Denys Baranov, The True Meaning of Being on the Top of Pyramid of Leadership, p. 5. Therefore, I would like to define several requirements of listening. It is (1) time, (2) silence, (3) presence / attention, (4) trust / honesty, and (5) remembering.

The first requirement of listening is time. Everyone knows that time is so precious thing. Therefore, many people always are busy. They are trying to do a lot of things. However, in the same time, people quite often are hurt that no one gives then special attention or time to listen without any interruption. From my point of view, there is a problem. Many people want to be listened, but they do not want to listen to others. One Benedictine monk said, In a fast food culture, you have to remind yourself that some things cannot be done quickly. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 178. The real listening takes time. It is a precious gift which we as Christians can give to people.

The next point of listening is silence. Every language contains with the words by which we can communicate with each other. Some people use them a lot, some not. However, not everything can be expressed through the words. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 218. I think that in the way of talking we often forget about another way of communication is silence. For some persons silence is quite scary thing, because they are afraid to be in silence. Still silence is an important requirement for a listener. It means to listen to other without interruption. This silent approach gives the opportunity to hear what other person tells us.

On the third place I put the requirement of presence or attention. The phrase Here I am is the key point of presence. T. E. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, p. 128. It implies just to be present with other person. The foundation for this ability takes its roots in love. David G. Benner, Sacred companions: the gift of spiritual friendship and direction (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 48. Vanier argues that the Christian community should a place of presence with others. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 218. So, what does it imply to be present to other people? First of all, it requires attentiveness. D. G. Benner, Sacred companions: the gift of spiritual friendship and direction, p. 50. Attentiveness means that I focus on the other person and his or her experience This attentiveness to the other involves setting some things aside. Ibid., p. 50. I had an experience when I was talking with someone, and he looked as he is present here with me. However, I felt that he really was not. Therefore, to be present or to be attentive to another person means to be fully involved in the process of listening.

The fourth requirement of listening is trust or honesty. When you are listening and other is talking to you, it means that the person trust you. Sharing ourselves is based on trust and honesty between people. Anything less of it will destroy the community. A. G. Gish, Living in Christian community, p. 66. I would to add that trust also requires security and respect of what the person is talking to you. People need to keep the secrets and wounds of others and respect their insights. An assurance of confidentiality is an essential part of being a listener. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 183. In the same time, trust does not appear in one day. The learning to trust to others takes a lot of time. From my point of view, the starting point of trust should be not in the people's relationships, but between person and God, because sometimes we need also to learn how to trust in God. A. G. Gish, Living in Christian community, pp. 66-67.

Finally, the fifth quality of listening is remembering. Our listening should move into remembering of what we have heard. Sending a thank you note, reminding someone you are praying for them, embracing them after church, offering a simple gift or encouraging e-mail or phone message - these simple gestures shout, `I remember!' B. Donahue, Building a church of small groups: a place where nobody stands alone, p. 63.

Therefore, the faith communities need to grow and develop in the ability to listen to the people who are around them. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 97. Christians need to keep this precious gift of listening. In this context, I would like to suggest the discipline of meditation as a practice for the ability to listen. At the beginning of this discussion, I want to say that this point can have a stranger sound, even sinful, for many Baptists in Ukrainian context. The application of meditation in the daily Christian life could seem as something exotic in Ukraine. From my point of view, the foundation of this problem is in the wrong and misleading interpretation of Christian meditation itself among the faith communities.

Nevertheless, Richard Foster calls the Christian meditation as the discipline. Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), p. 19. Morton Kelsey explains that Christian meditation is the attempt to provide the soul with a proper environment in which to grow. Morton T. Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation (London: SPCK, 1977), p. 31. Another author Hulme William Edward says that meditation is the practice of the presence of God. William Edward Hulme, Celebrating God's presence: a guide to Christian meditation (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), p. 25. Foster adds that it is the ability to hear God's voice and obey his word. R. J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, p. 21. Consequently, our ability to listen is flowing from our ability to hear and listen to God. We, as Baptists, like to talk and to proclaim the good news. Therefore, I think that listening can be a challenge for the Baptist communities, particularly in Ukrainian context. However, precisely this challenge can teach us how to stop and to listen to others. Kelsey compares this with stopping a car when one sees the `STOP-LOOK-LISTEN' sign at a railroad crossing. M. T. Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation, p. 85. I think that Ukrainian Baptist communities should apply this sign STOP-LOOK-LISTEN to their lives as well. Therefore, Christian meditation is the first step to learn to be quiet and silent, because it is a time for receiving, for silence, for listening Wm. E. Hulme, Celebrating God's presence: a guide to Christian meditation, p. 74.

1.4 The virtue of hospitality as a foundation for sharing

Reflecting from my own Ukrainian culture, I can say that Ukrainians actually are hospitable people. Therefore, consideration of hospitality is quite close to the mentality of my nation. Nevertheless, some faith communities would think that the organization the refreshments or just spending some time to talk with others after the Sunday service will be the hospitality itself. However, the implications of it should go much deeper.

Hospitality is a virtue. Rodney Clapp, Families at the crossroads: beyond traditional & modern options (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 149. There is another definition which characterizes it as one of the pillars of morality upon which the universe stands. Ibid., p. 139-140. The Greek word philoxenia can be used for hospitality. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 31. This term bears in itself two words with different meanings. One is phileo which is used as the general term for love. Ibid., p. 31. Another is xenos which implies the stranger. Ibid., p. 31. Consequently, the word philoxenia could means as showing the love for a stranger. Ibid., p. 31. When there is this showing of love for the strangers, it means that faith community is alive. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 194. However, it is not optional point for the community. The practicing of hospitality is necessity for Christians. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 31. Christians should show their readiness to follow it. , , . Vasilij, Evchik, Hospitality. Translation is mine. http://gospelhouse.ru/home/slovo/6182--3, accessed 18 April 2013. Shannon defines hospitality as a bridge which can help the theology with daily life. S. L. Jung, Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment, p. 50. In the same time, it should be a voluntary act. It should go from the attitude of a grateful heart. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 172. Hospitality involves our gratitude for the love of God and His care of us. Then, we can share with others what we have received from God.

However, still there is a strict division on public and private spheres of life. R. Clapp, Families at the crossroads: beyond traditional & modern options, p. 152. The life becomes so similar to the iceberg. People can see just one part of us, but another part is hidden under water of confidentiality. However, the walls of our security should be broke down to allow God to be the Lord of our entire lives as Christians. If God is not God of all parts of our lives, God is not really God of any part of our lives. Ibid., p. 156. God does not need to be privatized by us; He must be public God who is available for all people. Therefore, hospitality can be that important hammer which could break down this division of public and private. Ibid., p. 156.

Now I want to turn to Jesus who is portrayed in the Bible as a stranger as well. He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (John 1:11). Jesus experienced the vulnerability of the homeless infant, the child refugee, the adult with no place to lay his head, the despised convict. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 17. Nevertheless, hospitality was an essential feature of Jesus' ministry on the earth. Richard Allan Beck, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2011), p. 121.

Therefore, there is a question, Who is a stranger? The definition can be that it is a person without a place. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 87. In the same time, Rodney Clapp suggests that stranger is that person who crosses borders. R. Clapp, Families at the crossroads: beyond traditional & modern options, p. 138. Jesus was that Person who crossed and ignored borders. He was hospitable and welcomed people who were unacceptable and unclean in the eyes of society. Ibid., p. 139. Therefore, Jesus was a stranger for many people. Then He said later, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Matt. 8:20). Stranger is a person who is like from another world and he or she speaks another language. H. J. M. Nouwen, Reaching out: the three movements of the spiritual life, p. 80.

In the same time, from my point of view, even our brothers and sisters can be strangers within the community. They can become those persons who cross the borders of different church rules and regulations which make community closed from the world. There is a logical connection. If the heart of community will be open to its own members, then this heart will be open to the people who are around the community. J. Vanier, Community and growth, pp. 197-198. It requires willingness to be hospitable and open to others. Hospitality is a will to embrace. R. A. Beck, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, p. 140. Therefore, hospitality is resistance. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 61. It resists borders and boundaries which people make around themselves and around others. Society creates some standards by which some people become invisible for the society. Ibid., p. 62. Their needs and wounds become invisible for the society. The same things sometimes happen in the faith communities as well. Christians decides just do not see some people. Then, hospitality can resist such standards of invisibility and make a way for the visibility and recognition. Ibid., p. 62.

The recognition of strangers in our midst implies seeing the dignity of other person. S. L. Jung, Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment, p. 47. It is a distinctive feature of the virtue of hospitality. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 71. The great theologian John Calvin said:

Therefore, whatever man you meet who needs your aid, you have no reason to refuse to help him. Say, He is a stranger; but the Lord has given him a mark that ought to be familiar to you, by virtue of the fact that he forbids you to despise your own flesh (Isa. 58:7). Say, He is contemptible and worthless; but the Lord shows him to be one to whom he has deigned to give the beauty of his image. Say that you owe nothing for any service of his; but God, as it were, has put him in his own place in order that you may recognize toward him the many and great benefits with which God has bound you to himself. Say that he does not deserve even your least effort for his sake; but the image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions. John T. McNeill, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion: in two volumes (London: SCM Press, 1961), 3.7.6.

Calvin's thoughts can be a good reminder that we all bear the image of God. We are equal in need of hospitality and welcome.

Hospitality is also an inner attitude. Hospitality starts not from the opening the doors of our house. Hospitality begins from the opening the doors of our heart. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 197. Hospitality is creating the open space in our hearts, where other person can become a friend. R. A. Beck, Unclean: Meditation on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, p. 140. It should the first step of Christian communities. Finally, hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own. H. J. M. Nouwen, Reaching out: the three movements of the spiritual life, pp. 71-72.

2. RECONCILIATION

2.1 Sharing makes us vulnerable

As it was said above, hospitality as the foundation for the mutual sharing requires our openness toward other people. However, it is a venture. David W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1981), p. 59. The main danger of this adventure is that it requires our willingness to become vulnerable before others. Morgan Scott Peck, The Different Drum: community-making and peace (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 226. It means to make our own nerve naked. Then every touch to this nerve creates pain within us. Therefore, we always risk being hurt. Morgan Peck considers the risk as the central issue of vulnerability. Ibid., p. 229. We become more vulnerable as our fences and walls become lower. A. G. Gish, Living in Christian community, p. 66. However, it not only gives the opportunity for people to hurt us, but also it gives an opportunity for others to see our own weaknesses. M. S. Peck, The Different Drum: community-making and peace, p. 231. In the same time, the life always is the tensions between risk and trust. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 59. They are like twins who can never be separated.

In the same time, someone can ask, Are there any limits in our openness? A. G. Gish, Living in Christian community, p. 76. Pohl argues that there are these limits. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, pp. 132-135. In the context of practicing of hospitality, she defines it as one of the most challenging theological and practical issues. Ibid., p. 133. Christians should take account of existence the strangers who intend to make harm to other families and communities. Therefore, Pohl suggests the ways how some risks can be reduced a bit. Ibid., pp. 94-95. First of all, the practicing of hospitality should be more public. It does not imply the suggestion that hospitality should be less personal, but rather than welcome be initiated in a more public setting and sustained in less private places [because] welcoming total strangers is difficult when there is no community setting in which initial minimal relations can be established. Ibid., pp. 94-95.

This important point can be best demonstrated by some Christian communities of hospitality. As Pohl witnesses, they created special house in which some families welcomed strangers and in ongoing, informal relations were able eventually to discern who among them might benefit from extended hospitality in their community's rural household, Ibid., p. 95. who can be invited in more intimate relationships. Pohl says that such bridges can be very helpful, because these families or persons understand more both the world of the stranger and the world of the welcoming community, C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 95. and how they can be connected between each other. Vanier also points to another aspect of risks. He argues that revealing openness for others can become very hard task for some people who left their mother community with hurt feelings and vulnerable hearts. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 63. These frustrated Christians can have no freedom to commit themselves to the new faith community, because of fear to be hurt again. Ibid., p. 63. Therefore, they very often create limits of their openness toward others.

Peck considers that safety place of understanding and inner comfort cannot be gained cheap. M. S. Peck, The Different Drum: community-making and peace, p. 233. It sometimes is very costly. Nevertheless, faith communities reveal the need of belonging. T. E. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, p. 129. All people are similar in this need. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help. Without dependence upon one another, we cannot grow and develop the capacity for joy. We close up in fear. Love, however, opens us up. Ibid., p. 129. Love shows the sense of shared vulnerable experience. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 65. It implies to have inner sensitivity to see others who in need, and the ability to put ourselves in the situation of others. Ibid., p. 65. This attitude develops the mutuality in both to receive and to give love. T. E. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, p. 123.

Gish argues that our openness and vulnerability touches the facet of our trust in God. A. G. Gish, Living in Christian community, p. 76. Our willingness to trust in God connected closely with our willingness to trust in other people. If our faith in God is secure, we can act in a trusting way to those who are untrustworthy just as God loves us even though we are often untrustworthy. Ibid., p. 67. It could seem paradoxically, but there can be no community without vulnerability. M. S. Peck, The Different Drum: community-making and peace, p. 233.

2.1.1 The issue of betrayal

Christian community very often can become a dangerous adventure in lives of people who are the members of that community. It reveals a paradox of existence together, because the bonds of love and commitment that create and sustain our identities can also destroy us. Ray Sherman Anderson, The Gospel according to Judas: is there a limit to God's forgiveness? (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1991), p. 23. It implies that openness, trust, and love bear the seeds of betrayal within itself. Ray Anderson discusses that the issue of betrayal has its roots at the very beginning of our time as human beings. Ibid., pp. 16-17. He points to the Genesis story of the Fall. Genesis 3:8-13: They [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, `Where are you?' And he said, `I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.' He said, `Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?' The man said, `The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.' Then the Lord God said to the woman, `What is this that you have done?' The woman said, `The serpent deceived me, and I ate.' Anderson explains that as Adam as Eve tried to find excuse for themselves by blaming and betraying other. R. S. Anderson, The Gospel according to Judas: is there a limit to God's forgiveness?, pp. 16-17. It implies that each person has the seeds of betrayal within himself or herself. The question is in the people's attitude to develop and grow them or not. In the same time, there is another way of protection from betrayal is never to trust and to love. Ibid., pp. 23-24.

Here I also would like to mention another loud example of a betrayer: Judas. At the beginning of the investigation of this personality, I would like to mention Anderson's suggestion of the special paraphrase of the biblical passage from the Gospel of John 3:16. For God so loved Judas that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Ibid., p. 107. I think that this paraphrase can open a new understanding of who Judas was. It is a good reminder that Judas also was one of the Twelve. He was as an answer on Jesus' prayer. Luke 6:12-16: In these days he [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Anderson evaluates Judas as a demonstration that everyone is potentially a betrayer. R. S. Anderson, The Gospel according to Judas: is there a limit to God's forgiveness?, p. 53. It is striking that the label betrayer came not from the crowd of people, but from other Apostles. Ibid., p. 40. Anderson argues that the disciples of Jesus had quite selective memory and they chose intentionally to remember Judas only as a person who did the act of betrayal. Ibid., pp. 33-41.

The attitude of the disciples can be found in many Christian communities nowadays as well. People very often understand the act of betrayal as the final word in the life of betrayer. However, if there is God's love, then betrayal cannot be the final word. No sin can be the final word because of Jesus' death and resurrection. Ibid., pp. 25-26. There always is a place for the forgiveness. Anderson would suggest that the story of Judas can be a great demonstration and revelation of God's love and grace which show strongly that the final word is not judgment but mercy. Ibid., p. 110. If Jesus would write the story of Judas and other betrayers, then how would it look like? The answer is that story would be absolutely different from disciples' and ours. Ibid., p. 41.

2.2 Forgiveness as first step on the way of reconciliation

According to McClendon's thought, reconciliation is very crucial subpractice of community formation. N. C. Murphy (ed.) et al, Virtues & practices in the Christian tradition: Christian ethics after MacIntyre, p. 86. It should have an influence on the community's character as a community of forgiveness. J. Wm. McClendon, Ethics, p. 229. Stanley Hauerwas points out that forgiveness give the opportunity to community's discipleship to be possible. Stanley Hauerwas, The Hauerwas reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), p. 311. The Greek word aphesis is used in the Bible for the concept of forgiveness. Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz, The art of forgiveness: theological reflections on healing and reconciliation (Geneva: WCC Pub., 1997), p. 4. The meaning of it implies the liberation and releasing from bondage. Jean Vanier, Becoming Human (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd., 1999), p. 135. The word aphesis was also using when the prison door is opened and the prisoner can go free. Ibid., p. 135. In this context, forgiveness means to break down the walls between people and reunite their relationship again. It means to be open to others. J. Vanier, Community and growth, p. 171. It is a movement toward each other. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 6. Forgiveness is a declaration of the superiority of love in community's relationships. Jay E. Adams, From forgiven to forgiving: discover the path to biblical forgiveness (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), p. 162.

This forgiving love makes a division between the wrongdoing and the wrongdoer. Love says, Wrongdoing is not a valid reason for my not seeing you as a person of worth. Wrongdoing is not a just basis for my not seeing you as a fellow human of infinite value. Wrongdoing is no justification for my not loving you as I love myself. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, pp. 17-18. Forgiveness is not a nave or weak approach to life. On the contrary, it is a power to not see ourselves with superiority. It means to allow the other people not to be God. B. Donahue, Building a church of small groups: a place where nobody stands alone, p. 101. Otherwise, without forgiving love, faith community insists on perfectionism from others. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 6. However, forgiveness allows taking the masks of superiority off, and remembering about our own weaknesses, J. Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 158. because we all can hurt others and be hurt by others. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 160. Therefore, forgiveness should become both attitude and act John Patton, Is human forgiveness possible? : a pastoral care perspective (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), p. 117. in the lives of Christian communities.

Jay Adams defines forgiveness as a promise. J. E. Adams, From forgiven to forgiving: discover the path to biblical forgiveness, p. 18. It is a promise from both sides - the forgiver and the forgiven. For the person who is forgiving it is a promise to accept without suspicion the repentance of an offender. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 20. For the wrongdoer who is forgiven it is a promise to follow his or her own repentance. Nevertheless, there is a risk of failure in this promise. Therefore, it requires the willingness to make this promise. Ibid., pp. 20-21. In this context, I would like to focus specifically on the nature of repentance. It is a crucial moment in the process of restoration the broken relationships. There will not be reconciliation without a simple phrase Forgive me. J. E. Adams, From forgiven to forgiving: discover the path to biblical forgiveness, p. 99. I like the explanation of repentance which was created by David Augsburger, Repentance is owning what was in full acknowledgement of the past, and it is choosing what will be in open responsibility for one's behavior in the future. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 72. Repentance has centrality in the process of reconciliation. Ibid., p. 66.

Forgiveness between human beings is reflected from forgiveness between God and his creatures. John Howard Yoder, Body politics: five practices of the Christian community before the watching world (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 1997), p. 4. The Lord's Prayer declares, Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt. 6:12). I think that when people pray by these words, they make a very strong declaration. People must be sure that they really want to be forgiven just as they forgive others. In the same time, this connection between people's forgiveness and forgiveness of God is present in other passages of Scripture as well. forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:32). As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Col. 3:13). It should remind people that they exist only from God's gracious gift of forgiveness. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 161. Therefore, it implies that forgiveness should always be active. Wm. Klassen, The forgiving community, p. 151.

However, forgiveness is just the first step on the way of reconciliation. It is like the prelude to the restoration of brokenness. Ibid., p. 212. Reconciliation is sometimes a very long road of steps which should be done till the whole restoration. I would like again to put stress on the willingness which is required for making this journey. Are there any other alternative ways to forgiveness? P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 163.

2.3 Are to forgive and to forget the same?

Forgiveness means opening the doors for the new way of relationships. It is an open door which gives the opportunity to see offender with love. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 28. Forgiveness does not allow any hurt be neither the final word, nor the full stop. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 159. It writes only comma after which new relationships should begin. In the same time, does it imply that forgiveness simply means to forget what was done and to move forward? There is quite spreading belief that to forgive and to forget are the same. J. Wm. McClendon, Ethics, p. 225. As I observed, the believers of forgetting very often refer to the passage from Isaiah where the Lord says, I will not remember your sins (Isa. 43:25b). However, it implies to hold the person's transgressions against him or her no longer. Ibid., p. 225. To make the equality between to forgive and to forget is a big mistake. Wm. Klassen, The forgiving community, p. 209. There are no commandments in the Bible as forgive and forget. J. E. Adams, From forgiven to forgiving: discover the path to biblical forgiveness, p. 62. They cannot be merged. Solomon Schimmel, Wounds not healed by time: the power of repentance and forgiveness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 48.

McClendon considers that people in practicing of forgiveness should develop a special kind of remembrance. J. Wm. McClendon, Ethics, p. 225. As it was mentioned before, forgiveness is just one step in the way of reconciliation. It is an ongoing process. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 175. This process sometimes can be very complicated, because it is important to take into consideration different feelings, thoughts, and behaviors which can be in the person. S. Schimmel, Wounds not healed by time: the power of repentance and forgiveness, p. 46. Therefore, it takes time to manage this heavy package. Following this consideration, forgiveness is not forgetting; it is remembering in a different and new way. Robert J. Schreiter, The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality & Strategies (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998), p. 66. It is very often just impossible to forget what was done. There are different questions, How could parents forget that a drunk driver killed their child? How could a woman forget the violent assault of rape? How can a spouse forget the adultery of a partner? P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 175. However, forgiveness is a decision for a new future of someone's life. R. J. Schreiter, The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality & Strategies, p. 58. It is an attitude not to repair the past experiences, but the preparation for a better way in the future. G. Muller-Fahrenholz, The art of forgiveness: theological reflections on healing and reconciliation, p. 29. This way allows what was, be gone; what will be, come; what is now, be. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 52. It implies to be set free from the control of the past. R. J. Schreiter, The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality & Strategies, pp. 57-58. It is a process of healing our memory. G. Muller-Fahrenholz, The art of forgiveness: theological reflections on healing and reconciliation, p. 38.

In the same time, this way of healing and restoration should go again through the painful process of reconsidering our wounds, and hard work with our memory that holds pain still alive in us. R. J. Schreiter, The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality & Strategies, p. 58. As Augsburger points, all pain and hurt should be accepted in the emotional level as well. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 50. In this context, it is crucial to keep our forgiveness alive. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 175. It demands a conscious and intentional decision, R. J. Schreiter, The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality & Strategies, p. 58. because our memory at any time can be resurrected. Solomon Schimmel says that in order to forgive, you have to first remember your forgiveness toward other person. S. Schimmel, Wounds not healed by time: the power of repentance and forgiveness, p. 48. It means that the forgiver is holding no longer that painful past experiences. R. J. Schreiter, The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality & Strategies, p. 58. They do not have the power in the present. It is remembering without carrying the feeling of resentment. Ibid., p. 67.

Augsburger says, As I remember, recall, review, recycle, rework past experiences, I am holding on to them, D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 48. and it shows that resentment is still in the heart. Nevertheless, resentment could be called as God's good gift. J. Wm. McClendon, Ethics, p. 225. Resentment is natural feeling as a response on harm. However, it always should be moving to the end. Ibid., p. 225. There is a big danger in this feeling. People very often like to play with resentment. They are acting with their past as it is present. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 50.

In the context of resuscitation of resentment, people need to ask themselves, What hurt is keeping me from being free? What disappointment do I keep revisiting? P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 163. One of the answers could be that the human beings often enjoy keeping resentment in their hearts. Ibid., p. 163. I met many people who prefer from time to time to return to their pain, and consider it again and again. Making our wounds fresh is a breach of the promise of forgiveness which we gave to the offender. It is easier to keep alive our pain than our forgiving decision. However, the true forgiveness demands to say good-by to the resentment and bitterness. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 57. This simple word has a great power. It implies that one situation is finished and another is beginning. Ibid., pp. 57-58. The person needs to have willingness to break this connection with his or her resentment. Therefore, to forgive someone is not always so easy. Forgiveness requires from us to be the hard-workers. Wadell considers that a large part of the responsibility for forgiveness lies not on the shoulders of the friends we sometimes need to forgive but with us who need to offer it. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 164.

Therefore, forgiveness is not a treasure which we once can gain and then we need just to hold it in our hands. Wm. Klassen, The forgiving community, p. 151. It is an active movement toward. Forgiveness should become and be developed in our trait of character as Christians. It could even be defined as the virtue of forgiveness. S. Schimmel, Wounds not healed by time: the power of repentance and forgiveness, p. 53. The life of forgiveness is a choice. The starting point of this choice is love which reveals in the valuing of the offender. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 32. This decision of reevaluation leads to our inner liberation from the feelings and emotions which suppress us. J. Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 136. It is deciding to see, think, feel, want and act the wrongdoer in a new way with love and value. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, pp. 34-35. To make this choice can be as a big challenge for many people. However, precisely this decision will be a manifestation of loving and forgiving community. J. E. Adams, From forgiven to forgiving: discover the path to biblical forgiveness, p. 162. This type of faith communities sees their offenders as precious people. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 35. Consequently, these communities decide to think thoughts of positive evaluation. Ibid., p. 35. They are trying to feel loving and valuing toward others. Ibid., p. 35. The members of such communities want to move closer in trust, in openness, in acceptance Ibid., p. 35. toward their offenders. Finally, the forgiving communities act to manifest God's love for all people through their service, support, expression, speech, and touch. Ibid., p. 35. In the same time, as Augsburger analyses, the forgiving love can be possible only if all of these elements are exercised in responding positively toward the other once more. Ibid., p. 34.

Pohl would suggest that all seeing, thinking, feeling, wanting, and acting with an attitude of respect and valuing of others, even if they are our offenders, reflects on fundamental position of God's image in each human being. C. D. Pohl, Making room: recovering hospitality as a Christian tradition, p. 65. She points that every person has his or her dignity which cannot be undermined by wrongdoing. Ibid., p. 65. Augsburger would agree saying, I am irreducibly valuable simply because, and only because I am I. You are irreducibly valuable solely because, and wholly because you are you I, you, we are irreducible in value, for we are created in the image of God. D. W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Forgive: True Forgiveness, p. 37.

In view of the above considerations, I would like to discuss the issue of the Christian counselling. As it was said before, our sharing is risky adventure which involves us in making ourselves vulnerable before other people. M. S. Peck, The Different Drum: community-making and peace, p. 226. Consequently, this openness toward others can bring a lot of pain in our hearts. It is journey with many steps which should be made for the true forgiveness and the restoration of broken relationships. Therefore, from my point of view, the Christian counselling is an important issue which we should consider in this context. In the same time, according to my own observation, it is not really new idea, but still not very spread among the Baptist communities in Ukrainian context. However, I think that sometimes people need to receive some help from others to continue the way toward forgiveness. Therefore, my suggestion for the Ukrainian faith communities is to pay to this idea a special attention; and to work, particularly, on the projects of creating the centers of Christian counselling, which could bring to people a real help and support. It should be that places where people could come and share their fears, problems with a counsellor, and ask for the advice. Here I also would like to mention that already there are some projects and programs in the sphere of Christian counselling in Ukrainian Baptist context. http://www.ellel.org.ua/, accessed 30 April 2013. Nevertheless, further development and expansion of this ministry could bring some refreshment in the spiritual journey of Ukrainian Baptist faith communities.

Nevertheless, someone can ask, Is forgiveness always possible? There are many situations where forgiveness would seem as impossible act toward an offender. There are two answers on this question. One is No in case if people are left to themselves. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 178. Another answer is Yes if people have help and support from God. Ibid., p. 178. Wadell points that we as Christians are never left to ourselves because our forgiveness is rooted neither in our own goodness nor our own power nut in the absolute goodness and powerful mercy of God. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, pp. 178-179. Then he continues saying, We forgive because we live from the forgiveness of an absolutely forgiving God, and because God's mercy constantly supplies what is lacking in our own. It is our confidence in God's unending mercy that enables us to reach out to others and forgive. Ibid., p. 179. To forgive means the participation in God's power. Wm. Klassen, The forgiving community, p. 215. Consequently, forgiveness should become the language of our life as a Christian community, which will cultivate the forgiving heart. P. J. Wadell, Becoming friends: worship, justice, and the practice of Christian friendship, p. 161.


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