By Gavin Ashenden
There are many different views towards forgiving Patrick Magee
I remember standing outside the Grand hotel after the IRA blew the heart out of it 25 years ago this week.
It was an awful sight. Leaving aside the politics for a moment, it seemed like the hotel itself had suffered a grievous mortal wound.
Inevitably looking back, it provokes some serious questions about how we do politics, and whether violence and murder are ever justified?
And that perpetual problem, how and when do you forgive?
I thought I glimpsed a little further into that conundrum than usual when Harvey Thomas, the conference organiser, began talking about his experience during the program.
He had been blown out of bed and fell down two floors of the stricken hotel before he was rescued.
Five members at the conference were killed and a good many seriously wounded.
As a Christian, it was only when he found himself preaching about forgiveness that it came to him he had excluded the Brighton Bomber, Patrick Magee.
So he wrote to him, and they even became friends.
So much so that visiting Harvey's house one day, his daughter Larney, born after the bombing, put a question to Patrick Magee:
"You do realise Patrick, that if you had succeeded in killing Daddy, I wouldn't be here?"
And Patrick wept.
Lord and Lady Tebbit who was left paralysed after the IRA attack
Norman Tebbit, whose wife is still a quadraplegic, and who was himself dreadfully injured takes a different view towards forgiving Patrick Magee.
Harvey says he respects Norman's point of view.
I found myself asking why two honourable men who had suffered could reach such diametrically opposed views?
I think it may have to do with the two faculties we use that are joined but also separate:- the metaphors of the heart and the head.
The head takes a pragmatic analytical view about matters like violence and injury; and also about punishment and revenge.
The heart makes no calculations. The heart has no defence mechanism.
St Paul writes " Love is patient and kind
it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not rude it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."
"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
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There are serious occasions when we have to decide which is going to define our own lives - the head or the heart.
The heart that invites this Love to make a home in it, lives out this love.
We may fail, we may not manage to go the whole way, but Love does not fail, and Love can carry us beyond our natural limits.
The builders have mended the wound at the heart of the Brighton Grand.
Only the love of God can mend the wound at the centre of the human heart.