Based on the response to my last post (Forgiveness is a Choice) I’m going to continue the discussion on forgiveness.
Up until now it’s really been kid stuff. I framed forgiveness in very user-friendly terms…that is, in ways that made it palatable…easy to swallow. I said that forgiveness was about setting you free from your offender…not letting the thought of what they did hold you hostage.
Forgiving the Unforgivable
I agree with that image. But that’s Forgiveness 101. That’s the first step in the right direction. It’s always easier to do something when you are the one who benefits. But what about the offense that feels unforgivable? It feels wrong to forgive… like you are betraying yourself and maybe others too. Is it right that your forgiveness would actually benefit your offender?
I think these questions need to be answered. As I read what others are saying about forgiveness it’s becoming increasingly self-centered and that concerns me. Forgiveness helping YOU is a part of the equation. It’s not the whole equation.
Loving Your Enemies
From here on out, my discussion might only make sense if you are willing to see things from a spiritual point of view. That’s because Forgiveness 201 or 501 (i.e. forgiving the unforgivable) takes more than what we have as humans. Jesus called on his followers to love their enemies. Most of us have a hard enough time loving our family members and friends when they offend us. Our enemies…really?
The enemies Jesus referred to were the Roman army/government that occupied Jerusalem and taxed them heavily. It’s the Romans he was talking about when he told people to “turn the other cheek” and to “walk another mile”. We don’t get the full weight of what was going on but just think of some of the stories you’ve heard about what occupying armies do to people. It’s not pretty. There are deep wounds that come from that. Yet Jesus called people to love, forgive and bless these people.
Absorbing the Wrong of Others
Miroslav Volf writes in his book “Free of Charge...giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace” that forgiveness should “absorb the wrongdoing in order to transform the wrongdoer” (page 161). Absorb the wrong. He’s not saying to excuse it. I talked about that before. He’s talking about not adding to the evil that already exists. When we do… at whatever level (thought or deed) we lower ourselves to our offenders state and add to their evil. He says…
Revenge multiplies evil. Retributive justice contains evil – and threatens the world with destruction. Forgiveness overcomes evil with good. page 161
In other words…Jesus’ followers have enough God in them to stop the madness of evil. They refuse to return evil for evil…that was the law of the land. They chose to return good for evil introducing a new kingdom with new rules and in doing that… made space for evildoers to be transformed.
Do you want to be a part of that kind of kingdom or does your hate run so deep that all you long for is justice?
I have more to say but I’ll leave it there for today.
Question: What are the questions/revulsion/push back you have to forgiving your enemies?
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- How to Forgive: Setting Four Levels of Boundaries (readingremy.com)
- Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part three) (readingremy.com)