Photo: Felix Carroll
'Flag Etiquette' and Forgiveness
"The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls."
— Jesus to St. Faustina (Diary of St. Faustina, 1602)
By Ann D'Arcy
What does flag etiquette have to do with forgiveness? It isn't as far-fetched a connection as you might assume. United States flag etiquette tells me it's not proper to fly another flag higher than our country's flag. My Christian beliefs tell me it's not proper to fly my own "flag" higher than God's.
By my own "flag," what I mean is my own will, my own priorities. I think we all, by our actions, display what is important to us. We reveal to what and to whom we have dedicated our lives. Just by our behavior, we are flying our "flag."
Yet, how many times do I fly my flag higher than God's? How many times, out of pride, do I refuse to submit to God's will or refuse to believe in the mercy He extends to me?
The Lord said if I confess my sins and say I'm sorry, He'll forgive me anything. "For I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more" (Hb 8:12). He's telling me that it's as though my sins never happened. If my transgressions are erased, I can be at peace. It's no wonder when we forgive someone, we say we "make peace" with them. God is a God of peace and mercy. Is this when we wave our white flag and surrender to God's will, His mercy?
I say I want to follow Christ, but do I forgive others the way He forgives me? Do I just say I forgive them or do I let the offense stick in my craw? Do I fly my flag higher than God's?
Nations go to war, fighting for peace. There's a contradiction. God has shown us the way to peace. It lies in forgiveness. I understand that nations, or factions within a nation, go to war over wrongs that hundreds of years of hatred and prejudice have inflicted. It's hard to let go of past hurts, to wipe away even the memory of them. But that is what our God calls us to do.
I'm old enough to remember how, as a nation, our passivity in 1939 and 1940 led to horrendous atrocities before we entered World War II. I'm not qualified to discuss the basis for a just war. But there are choices I can make in my own life.
Insults and false accusations are hurled right here in our own country between political opponents. Do I make it clear that I don't support this negativity?
It's even closer to home than that. Anger and irritation fester between neighbors, members of the same congregation and even within our own families. Do I try hard enough to be a peacemaker? Do I really try to live mercy by meekness and gentleness?
Talk about making peace, sometimes I can't even make peace with myself. I sin. I confess and ask forgiveness. But then I re-visit my past iniquities, hashing them over and over again in my mind.
Why do I keep dwelling on them? I suppose it's my pride that won't allow me to accept my frailty, my humanness, my tendency to sin. Who do I think I am? Even St. Paul says in Romans 7:15: "What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate."
When God tells me He has forgiven and I continue to brood, I'm flying my flag higher than His.
The other day, as I was gnawing at past grievances, I had a revelation. I'm being a Judas! I realized Judas's greatest sin wasn't his betrayal of Jesus, but his refusal to believe in God's overwhelming love and mercy.
Both Peter and Judas betrayed Christ. We're told they both repented. But Peter trusted in God's love. He knew God was a merciful God. He accepted salvation and moved on. He didn't fly his flag higher than God's.
Ann D'Arcy is a freelance writer who lives in Northville, Mich.