I love the emotion this sculpture evokes. The title is Forgiveness which is an appropriate name for the scene playing out before us. We know this piece of art was made from marble, a hard substance to be sure, but after being in the hands of the artist, Pieter Braecke, the marble looks weightless, pliable, and delicate. Perhaps this is an appropriate metaphor for the softening of a hard heart penetrated by grace.

We don’t know if or how the people in this scene are related. The man is bending backward in an awkward position, half-naked with his hands clenched either in prayer or in pleading—or both. The woman’s face is close to his as she plants a kiss on his cheek. She is bent over, her arms reaching around his neck to embrace him. What we are witnessing is the moment a relationship is transformed. What was between them has been dissolved by an act of mercy.

The man has obviously said he is sorry. It is easier to forgive someone when they say they are sorry but we don’t always have that luxury. Often the person who hurts us may not even be aware of the pain they caused or, even worse, not care. So, you wonder, does that person deserve to be forgiven? The short answer is no. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is not something we earn but is an act of grace that reaches down into our humanity, recognizes our failure, and sets us squarely in the grace of God. Author Lewis B. Smedes says, “Forgiveness is God’s invention for coming to terms with a world in which people are unfair to each other and hurt each other deeply. He began by forgiving us. And he invites us all to forgive each other.”

Being Human connection: If you have a heart hardened by hurt, may it be softened by grace—for your sake. Unforgiveness hurts no one but the one unable or unwilling to forgive. So, then, how can we live in a world where people hurt each other? God said he tried forgiveness and it worked for him. He invites us—commands us even—to try the same on each other. Forgiveness is God’s answer to living in a hurtful world.

Featured art: Pieter Braecke, Forgiveness (Le Pardon), 1893, © The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels