Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Role of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is never easy and is contradictory to our nature. Forgiveness is not fair or just and does not make much sense. We live our lives striving for justice and equality. We follow the law, work hard to make a living, do the best we can to protect our family, try to help others in need, yet we are supposed to forgive some low-life who only takes from life and never contributes anything of merit to society. Most of our initial responses would be "hell no!"

One could argue Jesus' strongest message was forgiveness. He came to live among us as a man and show us exactly what forgiveness is. He asked forgiveness for the men nailing him to the cross. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" and he said, “We should forgive others 70 x 7.” His message was loud and clear.

There is a certain justice to forgiveness because as it is required of us it is also given to us as a gift. All of us, at one time or another, have had to be forgiven and usually over and over again.

I believe it was Donald Shriver, former president of Union Theological Seminary in New York who said on MPR's Midmorning “An eye for an eye” from the book of Leviticus, was originally inserted into the law codes of Israel as a constraint on infinite revenge – not more than one eye for one eye – a beginning on curbing a revengeful spirit. I found that interesting because I always thought that quote was in the spirt of pure revenge.

We have to transcend our nature and our desire for retribution in order to make it possible for us to be compassionate enough to forgive others. Our political leaders should be paving the way for peace between nations as well. Currently we are living in a world where revenge rules but in order for our world to survive that will have to change.

"Even our criminal justice should not act out of revenge, it is not a matter of revenge, rather it should be an act of protecting society and also a matter of expecting that that person might change. It is the most humanizing thing we can do."
-- Donald Shriver, former president of Union Theological Seminary in New York.

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