Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Forgiving the wrongs

Recently, john howard commented on a post here with just a teensy bit of cynicism. The article in the post was admittedly cutting against the grain of what most folk would recommend--which is one of the reasons I included it. I thought it was provocative and would make readers think.

But john's comment leads to another topic altogether. Forgiveness.

Divorce--whether you're the dumpee, the dumper, or the helpless kid caught in the crossfire--is bound to create hard feelings, to put it mildly. One of the reasons I've chosen not to participate in some of the discussion boards that are run by divorcees (male or female) is that they tend to be vituperative and, honestly, the last thing this child of divorce needs is someone spouting off about what a jerk their former spouse was. Spare me.

(And this from a kid whose parents refrained from that kind of verbal warring; I can only imagine how those of you who heard your parents badmouth each other all the time must feel!)

You're bitter and angry. We, the kids, get it. But at some point you have to let it go, because if you don't, that bitterness will eat you alive and consume everything and everyone around you in the process.

And, no, it isn't easy. I've been there. I remember vividly standing in my mom's kitchen one day, drying dishes, and fighting tears as I admitted to her that I needed to forgive my dad because to not do so would be a slap in God's face but that I just wasn't able to do so yet. Forgiveness came in time.

So what about that "slap in God's face" stuff? Did I just make that up for dramatic effect? No, it's straight out of Colossians 3:13--"Bear with each other and forgive whatever greivances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

How did the Lord forgive you? Here's what I have written next to those words in my Bible: "Wholly and completely, without my asking or deserving." I don't merit God's forgiveness, but I have it. I had it before I even asked for it (Romans 5:8). I have it forever, and it covers every wrong I've already done and every wrong I will ever do--and there will be plenty of them (Romans 7:24). How can I accept the salvation of the Lord, His bountiful grace and extravagant love, and then turn around and not forgive my dad of one little thing--even a little thing like not speaking to me for eight years? To not forgive would make me a wicked servant with a debt I could not possibly pay (Matthew 18:21-35).

Forgiving like this requires the same supernatural power that God used when He forgave you and me. If you're His child, He promises to give you this power (Philippians 2:13). And He demands that you use it (1 John 4:19-21).


John Howard said...

Hi. So, who do you see needing forgiveness, the mom, the dad, the daughter, the would-be step parent? What would be the beneficial result of everyone forgiving everyone, as it relates to this question of how soon to introduce a daughter to a new boyfriend? It sounds a little like you are just advocating for all the parties to get over it already and let mom date, or let mom and dad divorce in the first place.

I don't see any point in forgiving anyone here, just as God didn't see any point in forgiving Adam and Eve. I think everyone is justified in being upset at people who divorce, and asking us all to forgive is disrespectful of marriage's expectations and morality in general.

I do think we should recognize that people are the products of their environment, and have empathy for their plight and their helplessness, but that doesn't mean we have to withhold judgement on their bad behavior or not be mad at them for their transgressions. We can find lilies beautiful and wonderful even though they did not toil in getting that way, and we can find divorce and the people that divorce ugly and terrible even though they were unable to avoid it.

Kristine said...

Hi jay howard,

Actually, my thoughts on forgiveness were prompted by john howard's comment, not by the protocols of dating. I don't think everyone should just get over it -- that's what we children of divorce are often expected to do, and you're right, that attitude negates the very real issue that a wrong has been done when a marriage dissolves.

That said, there comes a time for each of us when we need to forgive those who have wronged us. No, we don't need to pretend that no wrong has been done, but we need to forgive in spite of that. Why? Two reasons, both of which I tried to articulate in this post. First, not forgiving will turn to bitterness in your soul that will eat you alive, so you need to forgive for your own sake. Second, you personally have been forgiven by God and He absolutely demands that you forgive others in return. His rules, not mine. After all, you're not perfect either, are you?

As for God not seeing fit to forgive Adam and Eve, I have to disagree with you. There were consequences for their actions; there always are. But beginning with that very first sin, God began revealing His eternal plan for redeeming mankind. God came looking for Adam and Eve when they were hiding in fear. The animal (or animals) that were killed to provide a covering for Adam and Eve was a prototype of Christ, the blood sacrifice for all of us. I think they were forgiven, and I think we'll see them in heaven someday.

Your last paragraph gets at one of the beauties and mysteries of the Christian faith. We see in others and in ourselves both the image of the perfect God and the absolute fallenness of our sinful natures. Thus, we can see both beauty and ugliness in our souls and in the souls of others; and we can acknowledge wrong while forgiving the one who committed it.

John Howard said...

Hi Kristine,

That first post was me, John, somehow my gmail account and my blogger account got mixed up, I guess the companies merged or something? Disconcerting, as I had meant to keep them seperate.

Anyhow, I guess i just am wondering what the practical difference is between "No, we don't need to pretend that no wrong has been done" and "but we need to forgive in spite of that." Especially as it relates to how we behave and the things we say after a divorce.

I think lots of people feel that "you have to forgive" means that they not only have a right to screw you over, but then they have a right to expect your complete understanding and forgiveness, and on top of that, the right to be mad at you if you don't forgive them. "After all, you're not perfect, either, right?"

I think we should let God do the forgiving, and we should not feel we have to be as forgiving as God. and even God only forgives a few elect souls, the rest he casts into fiery Hell, and is totally just in doing so. We all deserve the fiery Hell, but his mercy saves some of us, not all of us, and it has nothing to do with how forgiving we are, if you ask me.

If you can't tell, I'm a Jonathan Edwards fan, Yale just unveiled the new website with all of his writings. I already ordered a T-shirt!