Could you forgive as much as the Queen?
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, sadly died on 8 September this year. World leaders came from across the globe to her funeral as a mark of respect for this dignified, courageous leader, who openly shared her Christian faith as the central plank on which her servant leadership was based. And yet her personal life, like so many of ours, has at times been filled with hurt and sadness, having much to forgive. So then, what was her view of forgiveness, and could you forgive as much as she?
The Queen’s faith
The Queen of course was head of the Royal Family, and by virtue of her position, was also the “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”.
But along with her title, also came a genuine faith. Here’s what she famously said in her first Christmas broadcast in 1952:
Pray for me … that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.
She constantly referenced Jesus and her faith in her public speeches – for example, in her Christmas broadcast in December 2000 she said:
For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.
The Queen’s forgiveness challenges and how she responded
We are not privy to the Queen’s private life, but there is enough that we know publicly to see how great some of the hurts she experienced were.
For the Queen, forgiveness was foundational to her Christian faith. In her 2011 Christmas message, she expressed it this way (and here is the video):
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.
She lived this both in relation to political events and for her own family. Prince Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten, was assassinated by the IRA. Despite this, the Queen chose to shake hands with Martin McGuinness in a gesture seen as a vital step in securing reconciliation between nationalists and unionists in troubled Northern Ireland.
In her family, there has been so much suffering, spanning from elements of her relationships with and behaviour of her husband Prince Philip, her sons Prince Charles and Prince Andrew and then most recently the painful divisions even between her family and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In the interview they gave with Oprah Winfrey, there was a public airing of the deep divisions within the family, and things were shared that would be deeply hurtful for the Royal Family to have broadcast around the world. And yet, rather than shut the gate for all time, her response after the interview was to extend a hand of reconciliation, saying: ‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.’
What about us – can we forgive like the Queen?
Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia, once famously (or infamously) quipped that ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’.
The same can of course be said for forgiveness. As humans, we have an innate sense of what is just – and forgiveness is not just because it involves pardoning someone for the rightful consequences of a wrong that they have done.
And yet as Christians, this is exactly what God calls us to do. To take heart from God’s forgiveness of us through Jesus, and to follow his example in how we treat others. To extend grace and mercy to them, because it is kind and because it is what God wants us not just to do, but also to be – to be people of grace. In its simplest form, Paul expresses it this way:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13
Forgiveness does not mean validating or enabling wounding or dangerous behaviour. It does not mean saying something is OK that is not OK. There may well for some people in some situations be personal or other boundaries that need to be maintained.
And yet, as we think of our own families, I encourage us to consider, might our forgiveness offer a pathway back to a restored relationship, just as the Queen lovingly chose to hold this pathway open to the troubled Harry and Meghan?
If you would like to read or reflect more on forgiveness, here’s a link to 22 more topical devotions and articles we’ve written over the last 15 years or so.
May the Lord bless you, comfort you, and encourage you in your personal forgiveness journey and decisions.
Bruce is the Founding Director of PeaceWise and is Australia’s first Certified Christian Conciliator™. He holds degrees in Arts, Law, Christian Studies and Theology. Bruce has extensive legal, risk and governance expertise, advising in these areas professionally on the day’s that he is not working for PeaceWise.