That is the question that Fox Radio asked recently.

The story cited this:

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. -Mahatma Gandhi

Kathy Sanders HeadshotToday’s story is about how a woman lost her 2 grandsons in the Oklahoma City Bombing on 19th April, 1995 and then went on to develop a relationship with the convicted terrorist in order to find peace within herself and in the process extend forgiveness.

This woman’s story is one of tragedy, compassion, truth and the biggest challenge of all, forgiveness.

Listen here and decide for yourself.

I don’t have to listen to decide.

Forgiveness cannot go too far.  License (giving limitless permission to continue to do wrong) is too far, but that is not forgiveness.

Let me go to The Word here.  When Jesus taught me to pray, he told me to pray this (Bruce the Monk translation from the Greek on the fly).

Divorce from me my debts in the same manner that I divorce the debts from those who owe me.

He then went on to explain that in the same way that I deal with those who owe me, God will deal with me.

Finally, I am commanded to love others the way that God loved me.

THERE IS NO TOO FAR by that standard.

Do you want to measure forgiveness?  Put yourself on the receiving end and put God in the forgiver’s seat.  See where you get.

That may sound extreme, but it is precisely the truth.  God created us because of the pure joy and love he had at the idea of spending time with us forever (Ephesians 1).

First Adam, and then all the rest of us betrayed that love.  We spat on the one who made us and did things our own way.  I broke the law.  It doesn’t matter which law.  It turns out that if you break some of it, you break all of it.  So the murderer and the gossip are equally as guilty (one is must much more direct about killing someone than the other anyway, and I point you to 1 Corinthians 6).

That means that I took his kid, who had done me no wrong, falsely accused him, stripped him, mocked him, beat him, paraded his bleeding nakedness through town while he bled half to death, ripped flesh from his bones, tortured him for hours on the most sadistic execution method invented to date, laughed the whole time, and then stuck a spear in him to make sure he was good and done.

I have sinned, therefore I have done that.

What is God’s response to my treason?  He wanted me back while I was still his enemy, while I was still doing wrong, he cared about me, missed me, loved me, and wanted me with him (See Jesus’ little speech to Jerusalem).  But that wasn’t good enough. So he left home to come to me, his enemy.  He gave up his strength and glory to be just like me.  He walked through every hurt and temptation that I ever did, his enemy (Hebrews).  He knew I was going to hate him, hit him, hurt him, not understand him, curse, and laugh at him.

He didn’t just do it anyway, the idea that he could get me back on the other side made all that torture and death A SUPREME JOY TO HIM.

That is forgiveness.

There is no example in all of the Judeo-Christian scripture of forgiveness without a reconciliation.  I defy you to find me a single one.

So, if I say, “I forgive you, but I don’t want you around and I never think about you.”  And God forgives me that way, I will pretty much cease to exist since God sustains my being.  If I manage to still exist, the only place to not be around God is…

Hell.  If I’m in hell, I’m not forgiven.

If I say, “I forgive you, but I won’t forget what you’ve done.”  In the sense that I still get to make rules and demand things based on the sins I have ‘divorced’ from you, and God does the same to me, then I’m still in Hell, because my sins are still stuck to me.

That’s not forgiveness.

Forgiveness means that the sin no longer exists between me and God.  It is driving towards reconciliation, to the goal of reconciliation, for the sake of reconciliation alone.  Jesus didn’t say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” so he could feel righteous about himself.  He had already openly stated that his desire was for the people he said that about to be gathered to him like little chicks to a mother hen (they were the ruling powers in Jerusalem).

BUT.. Mr. Monk… that’s insane.  I can’t imagine asking someone to speak to a drunk driver who killed their child.  They were Parents!!!  You aren’t a Mother you can’t understand!.

1] God’s will is not contained within my emotions or imagination.  I didn’t make this shit up.  Read it for yourself.

2] Yep.  It’s crazy according to our human understanding.

3] I’m pretty sure that God understands parenthood, and he is the one who gave these definitions, not me.

But Mr. Monk… You’re a theology nerd.  It is one thing to say something like this is good and right.  It’s a different thing entirely to do it.  People just can’t do that.

I wasn’t super excited about reaching out to the last guy who molested me.  But I did.  I wasn’t super happy about someone who slandered me and falsely accused me of great evil.  But I invited him back into my life.  About ten years ago a pair of guys were “joking” about raping me, with all the innocence of hyena’s laughing with a goat since we were all alone in a room together.  The very next day one of them came to me in great fear (he was going to court and facing years in prison).  So I knelt down beside my bed and read the Psalms to my would-be rapist for an hour the very next day, and this is the guy whom I had already worried I was going to have to cripple or kill just eighteen hours before.

I’m not saying any of those things to lift myself up.  They were all scary things, and God was the source of any goodness there.  I am descended from centuries of pirates.  My inner nature leans to more dramatic solutions to threats.

I’m saying, yes, I know the impact of what I am saying.

It is a terrible truth when we realize what it might mean for our own lives.  It is an awesome thing when we realize what it meant for our lives when God did it.

The latter leads to and empowers the former.  There is no other way.

I’d like to close with a few thoughts about my radical choice to read the simply stated message of God here.

1] God isn’t a sadist.  The difficult things he asks us to do, are for the best, even terrible things he can work together.  Jesus stated in Luke that he who is forgiven little loves little, and he who is forgiven much loves much.  There are so many people walking around in this world aching that they don’t feel loved, when true forgiveness is a way to generate great love.

2] This isn’t a random concept.  There are two direct commands from scripture on this one outside of the Sermon on the Mount, if you need more than Jesus’ direct word.  In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul commands reconciliation to the local sex offender (incest is a sex crime here in the USA) after he repented.  Then there is the entire book of Philemon, which is manipulative as all get out, and directly aimed at commanding reconciliation for the penitent runaway slave.  That was a crucifying offense back then, a death-penalty case.

3] There is more warning than just this.  There IS one example in scripture of forgiveness denied.  David rejected his son Absolom completely, though Absolom waited for years for forgiveness and reconciliation.  David said he would never lay eyes on his son again, and suddenly Absolom had no reason left to play by David’s rules.  It appears that we have control when we deny reconciliation, place life-long boundaries on certain people and crimes, but we are just making the matter more extreme.  2 Corinthians indicates that we’re playing along with a Satanic plot to destroy people (and I really don’t like playing for the Enemy).  Also, we have in recorded history in Germanic law what happens when you kick someone out of society forever with no hope of reintegration.  You get… outlaws.

Think of what that term means to you, and I have given you a final thought why.

Forgiveness cannot go too far, or it can only go too far.  Only the guilty can ever need it, otherwise it is known as… wages.