Although most media outlets have stopped talking about the Nickel Mines slaughter it is still on my mind. Not the incident but the aftermath. The idea, the concept, the reality and power of Forgiveness is what still swims around in my head. In my last post I hinted at a wheel barrel of trouble that was dumped on to my front stoop. Much of which I am still dealing with and can not talk about yet but this load includes everything from a new lump on my mother’s lung to the brutal murder of my friend’s 24 year old son. This boy had the nerve to be home when some addict wanted to rob his house.
I understand that the Lord does not allow any evil to take place, except that a greater good can come from the wreckage. We are not to ask why because that puts God on trial and we are not equipped to judge that case. We are to ask ‘How we can turn this pile of dung to the greater glory of God.’ We are to Forgive.
Forgiveness: the easiest word to say the hardest action to raise high.
How many times are we to forgive? “Seventy times seven.” says the Lord. Not because the action against us will happen that many times but its memory surely will. He tells us “To love our enemies”. Not that we should not have enemies. For we surely will have them in this fallen world and usually the enemies, the ones that do us harm, will be the people we know or even the ones closest to us.
The people at Nickel Mines knew that man who ripped their children from this world. And they forgave. They grew up in a community that knew and taught the power of forgiveness and helped each other lift that load. We are growing up in a culture with phrases like, “Don’t get mad. Get even.” and “Revenge is a dish served best cold.”
I heard a radio shrink the other day talking about adultery, say something like this; ‘One of the mistaken beliefs people who are trying to heal from an affair hold is that the injured person has to forgive the cheater in order to move on to a place of healing and hope. This is not the case. A powerful alternative to forgiving is acceptance. Accepting the past so that you can move on with your life together is a path you can take that doesn't require you to forgive or forget, yet still allows you to heal and move on.” He kept on repeating the concept of not forgiving but just to accept.
How, I asked the radio, “Can you accept without forgiveness?” What this man and many in our culture refuse to acknowledge is; if we use the word forgive we bow to the reality of sin. If we use the word sin we bow to the reality of God and all that means. They use sound bites like “closure”, “get over it”, “shit happens”, and “accept it and move on”. Accepting an evil of any kind is allowing the elephant to continue to stand in the living room. Forgiveness makes the elephant disappear. And how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Seven times seventy bites.
Loving your enemy does not mean being a doormat either. The enemy must be fought. There are consequences to actions and debts to be paid in this world or the next. John Paul II forgave his assailant,Mehmet Ali Agca, but he did stop the trial. He did however request that he be pardoned after serving 19 years of a life sentence, the request was granted. If Nancy (put them in jail and throw away the key) Grace was on TV back then I’m sure she would have had a few things to say about that.
Someone once cheated Mother Teresa and she was exhorted to do something about it. She said “It is not between me and him. It is between me and God and him and God.” I do not know if that man was eventually prosecuted. She never showed any further interest in it. She knew what she was about and “closure” was not in the punishment of that man but in her forgiving him. She lived the difficult prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is the prayer I lift up every day. It is the prayer that I struggle to live out. And I hope to do so as graciously as those parents of Nickel Mines.