The fading of forgiveness… – The Irish Catholic


In a recent issue of Comment magazine, Timothy Keller, theologian and pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, wrote an insightful essay called “The Fading of Forgiveness,” in which he highlights how forgiveness is growing. is seen. like a weakness and a naivety.

Therefore, our culture sees forgiveness more negatively than positively ”

He begins by pointing out a few high-profile forgiveness incidents. In 2015, Dylann Roof shot dead nine members inside an African-American church in South Carolina and was publicly forgiven by relatives of his victims. And in 2006, when a gunman shot ten Amish children in a school hall in Pennsylvania and then committed suicide, the Amish community there not only forgave her, she went to visit her family. and expressed their condolences to them for their loss. What has been the general response? Admiration for extraordinary selflessness and virtue? No, not that. More generally, these examples of forgiveness were seen as naive fundamentalism and unnecessary. Why? Why shouldn’t these examples instead be recognized both for what is most noble in humanity and for what is highest in religious virtue?

Reverend Keller suggests there are a number of reasons for this, but he singles out two in particular. We are a “therapeutic culture” (where only our truth and feelings matter) and a culture that has a “graceless religion” (its vision and virtue go no further than what resonates in our emotions and will) . Therefore, our culture views forgiveness more negatively than positively. For him, forgiveness allows oppression to maintain its power and thus continue the cycle of violence and abuse. Like a family refusing to stand up to an alcoholic member, this helps rather than stop the abuse and allows an illness situation to continue. Forgiveness is then an additional injustice towards the one who has been violated and can lead to a form of self-loathing, to the acceptance of a destructive humiliation of the self-image, to a new loss of dignity. In addition, the moral pressure to forgive can be an additional burden for the victim and an easy escape for the abuser. Is this logic correct?

Purely emotional

From a purely emotional point of view, yes, it feels good; but it is wrong when you examine it more deeply. First, it is obvious that retribution will only produce more retribution. Retribution will never soften a heart and will never help change it. Only forgiveness (analogous to dialysis) can remove violence and hatred from a relationship. Likewise, in the words of Martin Luther King, whoever is devoid of the power of forgiveness is also devoid of the power of love. Why? Because each of us will be hurt by others and hurt others in each of our relationships. It is the price of community within human insufficiency. Therefore, relationships at all levels, personal and social, can only be sustained over the long term if there is forgiveness.

Moreover, with Jesus, forgiveness becomes singularly the most important of all the virtues. He decides whether we are going to heaven or not. As Jesus tells us when he gives us the Our Father, if we cannot forgive others, God cannot forgive us. Why? For the banquet table, an eternal community of life, is only open to all those who are willing to sit down with all. God can’t change it. Only we can open our hearts enough to sit down with everyone.

Christian discipleship

Recently, given some of our internal church struggles, various groups have attempted to select a specific moral issue as a litmus test for Christian discipleship. For many, that litmus test is abortion; others choose church attendance or some other issue. What could serve as a litmus test for Christian discipleship? Precisely this: the will to forgive. Can I forgive someone who wronged me? Can I forgive someone I hate and who hates me? This challenge is most central in the teaching of Jesus.

That being said, it must also be said that forgiveness is not simple or easy. This is why in the Judeo-Christian spirituality of the Sabbath, there is a spirituality (too little known) of forgiveness. As we know, the commandment to celebrate the Sabbath asks us to honor this cycle in our lives: Work for six days – rest for a day. Work for seven years – rest for a year. Work of seven times seven (49) years – have a major rest (sabbatical). Work your whole life, then take a sabbatical for eternity.

You can hold onto a grudge that ruined your life until you die – then you have to give it up “

Well, it’s also the cycle of forgiveness. In Sabbath Spirituality: You can hold a minor grudge for six days – then you must let it go. You can hold a big grudge for seven years, and then you have to let it go. You can hold a heartbreaking grudge for 49 years – then you have to let it go. You can hold onto a grudge that ruined your life until your deathbed – then you have to give it up. It is the last Christian moral imperative.

Desmond Tutu once said: “Without forgiveness, there is no future”. True – on both sides of eternity.

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