There is written evidence back to at least the 17th century of some Native American groups “burying the hatchet.” The ritual involved leaders from each groups in dispute or even war to bring a hatchet and bury it as part of the peace-making process. The obvious metaphor was that the instruments of warfare were put down and covered.
Burying our weapons certainly makes us vulnerable, whether we are talking the physical weapons of war or the emotional weapons of our interpersonal disputes, but in both cases this vulnerability is an essential part of peacemaking.
Of course, for every great concept like hatchet-burying, we seem to find an equal and opposite cynicism in our culture. One such expression attributed to journalist and cartoonist Frank “Kin” Hubbard quips:
“Nobody ever forgets where he buried the hatchet.”
There is much truth in this, especially when it comes to humans practicing forgiveness. We don’t tend to bury the hatchet. We only hide it for later.
But praise be to God that while he – being fully omniscient – never forgets anything, he offers to make peace to us, and thus to bury the hatchet with the unbreakable covenant promise never to dig it up again!
Think about that! We are offered the opportunity to be forgiven of the sins for which we could never repay, and then promised further that he will not bring those sins back to mind.
He says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10:17; see also Jeremiah 31:34 among others)
World-changing implications flow from the fact that the pure and holy King of Kings makes peace with those who have rebelled against him, even to the point of requiring the sacrifice of the King’s Son!
And what world-changing implications would flow further, if we who have been forgiven the unforgivable would practice the same forgiveness with others?
…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13b)
(This illustration was adapted from our sermon series on the book of Philemon, “Forgive, or not to Forgive“)