Forgiveness Truth and Reconciliation

Love Is Not a Special Way of Feeling – Forgiveness

[Here’s a comment I put up on a diary over at StreetProphets the other day (Free membership required there to access old diaries.). The diary and commenters were considering the roles of anger in life in this world.]

Anger and love are not opposites. But there clearly is an interactive “complex” here of love, anger, hate, forgiveness, hope, despair, attentiveness, disregard, etc. And all the words in that list have at least occasional good roles to play.

Martin Luther King said something I think of often:

“Forgiveness means the offense is no longer a barrier to a loving relationship.”

He was looking forward to “a loving relationship” with white America. And he was dealing with some pretty monstrous, long-standing – and continuing – offenses!

We are “looking forward to a loving relationship” with “conservative America” and with “Christian America.” Ooh. Take a deep breath!

To me –

  1. There are people who quite literally “have it coming.” And there is a point – presumably known only to God – where they are beyond any hope of moral or spiritual redemption. We certainly are under no obligation to enable or pretend we approve of such persons (or those who seem to be such) or their behavior. Look how Jesus reacted to Caiaphas, to Herod, and even to fellow-rabbis in the synagogues.
  2. There are people for whom there is hope, or who are not “all THAT evil” but with whom I just don’t want to spend time – because I know things they have done (to others) in the past, &/or I know their patterns of ignorance, arrogance, or abuse are continuing into the present. But out of a general sort of courtesy (which is part of love) I am willing to spend limited amounts of time with them – in ‘safe’ settings. Actually, this pretty well describes part of what it’s like for us just to go to church – and much of what it’s like to be involved in political activity.
  3. And there are people whose patterns have changed or are changing. With those the response needs to be more nuanced. Some whom others see as “really bad” are among the people we love and respect the most. It needs to be within the limits of their own experiential reality which in some cases is somewhat limited. But in other cases they are now light-years ahead of us and we are their learners.
  4. Then there is the vast majority, about whom we are in no position to make evaluations or have moral judgment-reactions, pro or con. We really just don’t know enough. But it does seem to me that wise assumptions would include:

    • Assume that there is deadly evil in every human heart (There is a reason for the old saying that “power corrupts, and aboslute power corrupts absolutely.” The reason is the human heart.)
    • Assume that “there is that of God” in every person. And in the deepest, quietest places of the heart the profoundest longing is for more of “that of God.” It gets easily ignored and buried. Sometimes maybe it gets killed. But I believe it is there.

It would be fun to do (or read) a few paragraphs discussing how Jesus related to these four categories of people during his time of ministry.

Along these lines, I’ve really profited from this little book: “Don’t Forgive Too Soon” by a family named Linn. Don’t let the cutesy artwork put you off; it’s very good theology, and very practical.

It seems these matters can always bear more thought and introspection!

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