The system is broken. The trust is broken. The air conditioner is broken. We hear these words swirling around us every day this summer. During this season of disarray, surrounded by piles of fragmented hopes and relationships, we feel helpless to begin the necessary repair and reconciliation work. That’s actually good! Because our helplessness becomes the starting point to seek God’s help, to surrender to the forgiveness that is the only answer.

Forgiveness is the duct tape of Christian faith—and it works! Forgiveness binds together what would otherwise completely fall apart or stop functioning. It may not be the most stunning solution, but it’s miraculous still.

Both duct tape and forgiveness seal two pieces in place long enough for longer-term fixes to be enacted, for brokenness to be transformed into new solutions—by God’s grace.

Smooth on the outside, sticky on the inside—that’s duct tape. The tape’s sleek exterior provides a protective sheath to safeguard against the sharp edges and leaky joints it covers. Forgiveness offers a barrier between our fragile selves and the raw emotions that could permanently wound us.

The sticky adhesive on the interior of duct tape clings stubbornly, insisting that two things remain together that would otherwise fall apart. Forgiveness fiercely holds on and leaves a residue of love wherever it has been applied.

In between duct tape’s smooth and sticky sides lie tiny threads that are woven through the tape. They provide an extra dimension of capability, an added structure to support the intent of reconstruction.

These days duct tape appears in several colors and patterns. And forgiveness? Can we market this age-old resource anew to fresh audiences? Whether neon-hued or traditionally silver, there comes a time when forgiveness must be passed on from every parent to each child. “This tool is what you need, son or daughter, to get beyond brokenness,” we can say. “Keep it on hand; apply it unsparingly. By mending a relationship, you will mend your life.”

We can also point others to the most visible witness of forgiveness enacted in recent times, such as the forgiveness proclaimed by Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.,  after its pastor, Clarence Pinckney, and eight parishioners were murdered during a Bible study. The congregation’s new pastor, Betty Deas Clark, spoke this summer about the congregation’s radical action: “The message of forgiveness that was offered shortly after the event gave us a platform to actually walk out the love of Jesus and to help people to see what a relationship with Christ does for you.”

The forgiveness announced by Emanuel probably feels as temporary as a duct tape fix many days as community members walk through the ravages of lives undone. Yet forgiveness’ shiny silver mark caught the world’s eye and mirrored the desire for change.

Be ready, churches. During this season of anguish, and the seasons to come, God’s people are wandering your aisles, looking for a message of forgiveness—a message that sticks.

Mary C. Lindberg
Lindberg is a Seattle-area parent, pastor and former teacher.

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