Sunday, May 1, 2011

The king is dead... long live the king?

So bin Laden is dead, which I have to admit makes me glad. That said, I'm trying not to take joy in someones death, not even that dudes.

After the last post about forgiveness and stuff, my dad told me he couldn't forgive Hitler because Hitler hadn't done anything to him, to forgive him would be presumptuous and arrogant. He had a valid point, but I think there is more to it. My hatred of Hitler indicates a wrong done, not on the scale of death-camps, persecution, etc. but a wrong none the less. If I hate someone there is a need to forgive them. If I said, "Hey, I forgive you man, we can just forget about all the millions of murders you committed and do our best to make sure you aren't judged.", then yes, I would have no right and it would be epically presumptuous and arrogant. I don't think that's what forgiveness is though.

I don't think forgiveness equals forgetting, or frees people from the consequences of their actions. God is the only one even capable of walking out either of those actions. I think forgiveness is the act of releasing another from the anger we hold against them, and the attempt to love them for who they are rather than hate them for what they have done. I may not have the right to make this statement, not that that has ever stopped me before, but until Jews, as individuals and a community, learn how to forgive and even love Hitler, he will continue to do violence against them - against us. This goes for the African community and it's history of slavery and oppression, the First Nations people and the wrongs done them, Americans and 9/11, etc.

Some may say this is impossible and unreasonable - I would agree. To forgive and even love ones enemies IS impossible, at least for us. Fortunately or unfortunately, for Christians, Jesus has freed us from the impossibility that once governed us. We don't get to fall back on, "It's too hard.", "It's not possible!", "You can't ask me to do that!", etc. Wat is possible, natural, and just, according to our own eyes, no longer applies to us. If we claim Christ, we claim his standards... even the sucky ones. The upside to this whole thing is we learn to forgive and love our enemies, not by forgetting or ignoring what they have done, but by flinging ourselves on what Jesus did. We don't depend on our own ability, we surrender ourselves to Christ's.

I'm glad some form of justice found bin Laden, I just don't want my joy to come from it. There is a huge difference between bin Laden and the people who shot him; there is a huge difference between those who went to the streets to celebrate 9/11 and the terrorists who committed those acts and the ones who celebrate the death of bin laden, but does that difference reach our hearts? As people, deep down, are we so different? If, on a grand scale, hatred is the greatest violence we do against each other and the specific actions the easily condemnable fruit of that hate, can we ever cling to moral high-ground and the justification of our hatred at the same time?

*Before anyone gets mad at me: I see no contradiction in forgiving the person who wronged you and then testifying against them in the knowledge they would be punished. Forgiveness doesn't preclude consequences for actions, it heals the deeper wounds and divides untouched by law. I'm not a fan of the death penalty in the U.S., but I've never apposed it or argued against it. It is a limited tool of little value, but as a justifiable consequence for actions it is valid. The issue is hating the executed rather than recognizing the deeper tragedy of the thing and the one that made it necessary.

If we punish the actions brought about by hate without renouncing the hate in our hearts, we can proclaim "The king is dead..."


  1. I believe that forgiveness has eternal consequences. For example, I was sexually abused by my father. When I accepted Christ and his forgiveness of my sins, it began a journey that led to my being able to forgive my father of that sin toward me. I believe that when we forgive someone, God forgives them. John 20:23 says simply, 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven. I believe that, when my father stands before God, when God comes to the 'abused his daughter' part of his life, God will erase that and not hold it against him in eternity. He won't be punished for it because I forgave him, just like I won't be punished for the things Christ has forgiven me.

    Because we tend to want vengeance, forgiveness comes at the cost of knowing the sinner won't be punished. But I also know that my testimony of what Christ has done for me will stay with my father (who is not a believer) for all eternity. I believe he will know what he did and what he deserved and what he did not get because of forgiveness. (I think the same will be true for me!)

    If my desire in life is to have Christ glorified in my life, then forgiveness does that in a big way.

  2. Yeah, in an eternal sense I'm on board. Forgiveness caries with it freedom from the earned consequences. I think in the present, true forgiveness releases you from needing to see one punished, or expecting it one way or the other. Weather or not they ever are becomes immaterial.

    I think in the case of bin Laden, forgiving him wouldn't have precluded me from turning him in. It could become a bit of a gray area and I could possibly be convinced in a different direction, at least if the circumstances were different. For now, unless I'm the only one hurt, I don't see how I couldn't testify.

    The ability of forgiveness to glorify Christ is a huge point, especially since I've only ever seen it take place through him. The fact that it heals and restores relationships, and people, once devastated is a testimony to his nature. Almost as if Restoration is more important to him than punishment.

  3. I totally agree that I could've turned bin Laden in. We're on the same page. (which makes you obviously very bright) ;^)

  4. "I think forgiveness is the act of releasing another from the anger we hold against them, and the attempt to love them for who they are rather than hate them for what they have done"

    You said it right here.

    Sometimes the act of forgiveness can be more of the attitude of willing to accept the help to forgive.