Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Digbats, Forgiveness, and Politics

After viewing the incredible forgiveness of the Amish during the crisis in their community, Diana Bulter posited that we should practice this kind of forgiveness to the perpetrators of 9/11. I can't believe anyone would be that naive, but in fact, that is exactly the kind of nonsense that passes for "Christian thought" these days. You can click here for her blog site, if you must.
Forgiveness is a powerful tool of God that can change lives and eternal destinies. It is amazing in its ability to set people free from crushing guilt and shame (as in the case of Marie Roberts). But is it bilbical to practice forgiveness toward the unrepentant. I would like to posit three reasons why it is not. 1) Forgiveness can only be offered to someone who accepts responsibility for their actions. It is granted upon repentance. 2) Since God forgives us when we repent- if we forgive all who sin against us without demanding repentance- aren't we practicing a higher form of forgiveness than God? Why don't we officially forgive the whole world of its offenses and then they can go to heaven without personally repenting for their evil deeds? 3) What passes for forgiveness is less than altruistic. Therapeutic forgiveness is really selfish at its core. I am forgiving your so that I can get on with my life and cut my life free from the residue of your evil works.
Honestly, I think that there is a terrible oversimplification that Christians perform when they speak of forgiveness. It is hard work to forgive even the penitent. Why do we burden ourselves with unbiblical ideals on forgiveness? Did Jesus call us to let murderers go free in our society? Did he call us to ignore justice? Did he call us to ignore pedophilia in the name of forgiveness?

Seems to me that this is a diabolicaly twisting of a Biblical concept. What do you think?


Anonymous said...


Interesting thoughts. You've highlighted the complex issues that surround forgiveness. I do have to disagree with you, however, in your easy dismissal of Diana Butler Bass's advocating the Amish forgiving the murderers. I think you're confusing "forgiveness" and "reconciliation." Also I think it needs to be explored further the relationship between forgiveness and justice. Miroslav Volf's "Exclusion and Embrace" is a dense but very illumating study of these important issues. I commend the book to you.

Roger G said...

We are commanded to forgive as God forgives us but even Jesus made enemies by telling people (Pharisees and teachers of the law) when they were wrong and when we know what we should do and don't do it God calls it sin. Its easier to comment on an issue when not in the middle of that issue. I'm not sure if I would be compassionate or forgiving to someone who has my families or friends in their sights and would wish them harm. I might kill a man who was trying to kill or rape my wife or daughter. This might seem cruel but I have thought about that scenario. I don't think I could stand by and watch something horrible happen to someone else and not do something. I hope it never comes to that but one day it may and we have to think and use our brain. God doesn't want people to be so fool hardy to just believe everything is always about peace and joy. The Old Testament is full of wars, battles and enemies. We should pray for peace but we are also told that the anti-christ will eventually emerge. We can immerse ourselves in intellectual thinking and philsophy but truth be told this world is full of evil. One of my friends was a victim of John Wayne Gacy and he didn't deserve to be killed but he was anyway because an evil man did what he thought was right in his life and killed people. As a teenager in Chicago, at 17 years old or so, I was bringing some big PA speakers home and took a cab. The cab driver was from Europe and had a thick accent. He started conversing with me about President Reagan and what I thought about his policies. Of course I didn't know anything and didn't have much to comment on being a dumb kid but this I will always remember. He said that other countries were afraid of Reagan because he was a strong leader and that many countries were just waiting for a chance to come over and take us over. It took a man from another country to help me see what the world see's. The US is a prize that others want. I recently saw a program showing different Muslim leaders talking about how it was their goal to take the USA down and rule the world. These leaders were not ignorant, unschooled men but smart intellectual men who had a purpose. We can't live our lives in fear but the reality is that we have enemies who would love to take over our country and the threat is very real. My brother use to tell me, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. To have the perspective to believe everything is going to be just peachy in this world can be misleading. If there is a devil, which I believe there is according to the bible, he is doing a great job. John 10:10 says he is a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. Forgiveness is a very powerful tool of God but we have to be careful and use wisdom in this life. We need to forgive but we also need to use wisdom. We have a brain for a reason.

Paul M. Harrison said...

Jesus did say to love your enemies and pray for them, but I don't remember specifically if he said to forgive them.

He did say in the measure you forgive, you will be forgiven, so there is a condition, but is this only when someone asks for forgiveness?

Lastly, you have Jesus forgiving those who know not what they do and dying for those still against him.

Is Jesus' atonement an excpetion from moral imperative? Is forgiveness of enemies only at a personal level to help society run smoother and not on an international level when fighting terrorists or evil dictators?

Lots to think about.