The F-Word: Our God Swears by It.

 

The other day I put up this tweet:  “The F-Word. My God swears by it.”

It was a snippet of a personal reflection on the bigger problem of forgiveness.  

I’m not much of one to harbor grudges. I’m usually quick to apologize when I’ve wronged somebody. I made it a habit when raising my children to seek their forgiveness when I wronged them, and I taught them to do the same. Those who know me best know that one of my favorite sayings is I’d rather be redeemed than right.

I’m impatient, intolerant, insufferable at times, but I am rarely mean just for the sake of being mean. I try to think the best of people. Having been shown mercy in my life, I always want to err on the side of mercy for others.

It hurts me terribly when I’m wrongly accused of things. I cry easily over ugly gossip. I find that doing the wrong thing often takes far more energy than doing the right thing, tho, doing nothing is often the worst of the wrongs we inflict on each other.

The greatest forgiving moment, beyond the moment of my own salvation, came for me in a manioc field in Vietnam’s Central Highland in 2003. I laid my burden down that day and have not picked it up since.

But today I realized as I was writing about the murder of a child that it had been six years to the date since the investigation into abuse for that sweet child began. Had the investigation been conducted the way it should have been that child would not be dead.

But it wasn’t.

And she is.

Which leaves me wondering about forgiveness.

The man who tortured that child to death is sitting in prison up the road from here. He reportedly attends a Bible Study every week. Sometimes the fellow who meets with him for Bible Study writes to me. I have a hard time reading those notes. In my mind I am thinking “If only you knew what I know about this case…”.

The child’s father refers to her killer as “That monster.”

He’s not far from wrong in that assessment.

This isn’t even my child and I’m having a difficult time with this whole forgiveness issue. Not that the killer has sought anyone’s forgiveness, mind you. He hasn’t. He still insists he didn’t kill the child, despite plenty of hard evidence to the contrary.

When it comes to situations like this, I don’t want a merciful God. I want the Avenger God, preferably one with a cattle prod handy.

I know the F-Word. That Our God swears by it, but really? Does God expect us to forgive the monster that tortured & murdered a defenseless child?

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

    I’ve never done what he did, but I for one am glad God doesn’t draw a line anywhere on the spectrum of human sin between what’s forgivable and what’s not. I’m thankful that His forgiveness covers it all.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Do you really believe that? That God doesn’t draw the line anywhere on the spectrum of human sin? Not for Pol Pot or Hitler?

      Please note that the question isn’t whether God forgives, but whether we are expected to in such situations.

      • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

        If you are asking if He sees some sins as worse than others, I think it’s clear that He does. If you are asking if some sins are so heinous that He will not or cannot forgive them, then, no, I don’t believe that.

  • Debbie

    Love is found where there is pain. Love’s foundation from the beginning has been forgiveness.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Debbie:

      Does God expect us to love such a man as this?

      • Debbie

        He may have become that kind of man because nobody has ever loved him. The way I see it this guy was forgiven the same day the rest of us were. God doesn’t expect us to love such a man but God wants to love the man through people. So yes God does… but love is never easy.

        • Debbie

          The most mindblowing thing about the Christian faith is the fact that we have a God who took on our pain and forgave. We know that when he wraps it all up there will be murdererers outside the gate – some will not have accepted His invitation. Will this man be one of those? Only God knows. I dare not even begin to imagine how difficult it is for the father, or for you who have a more intimate knowledge of this crime, to forgive. Sometimes we feel that if we forgive then we are condoning the evil but we are not, neither does God. Forgiveness isn’t a one off event either – my step father violated me when I was a child – I learnt to forgive and when he had a massive stroke – I learned to help and when he died…to be continued…because each time I think of him I need to pray.

          • Karen Spears Zacharias

            Debbie: So sorry this happened to you. Like what you said about learning to forgive, suggests that forgiveness is a spiritual discipline to be practiced.

  • http://www.balancedandunafraid.blogspot.com Vasca

    He puts no limits on forgiveness and that’s a blessing for all…otherwise? We’d all probably go down. He is soooo much bigger than me! That’s a good thing.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      But what about us Vasca? Does he expect the father of this little girl to forgive his daughter’s murderer?

      • http://www.balancedandunafraid.blogspot.com Vasca

        I say “Yes, He does”…our 18 yr old/deaf niece was abducted, stabbed 17 times and had her throat slit from side to side; the horrible criminal is in prison. Reading “The Miracle of Mercy” by Terry Rush is very helpful…along w/that is an incident in Carrie ten Booms’ life at the trial of one of the Germans following WWII. “Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
        — Corrie ten Boom (The Hiding Place)

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          Heard Corrie years ago in Portland. Love that woman. Thanks for this. One of my favorite books.

        • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

          “Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?”
          What a great truth!

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

    One of my favorite forgiveness examples:
    http://bit.ly/cd6D6e
    http://www.baptiststandard.com/2001/11_26/pages/carrier.html

    Short summary:
    Deranged man stabs little boy repeatedly with icepick, shoots him and causes him to lose an eye. Boys grows up and not only forgives the man, but visits him in prison and reads the bible to him regularly.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Perhaps the caveat here is that the little boy grows up. The little girl doesn’t.

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  • http://www.geekforhim.com Geek for Him

    Thanks a ton for sharing this, love the idea and the boldness of it all!

  • Peg Willis

    Forgiveness isn’t about the one who has wronged me – or the little girl who never had the chance to grow up – or the six million jews in Europe – or the dead Hutus & Tutsis of Rwanda. It’s about me. God allows me to forgive as He forgives to release me from the bondage of bitterness. Does forgiveness include release from a just sentence for wrong-doing? Of course not! But it allows me to live my life above – not under – the burden of unforgivenes – and believe me, it’s a HEAVY burden! When I forgive, I am free. I don’t like the inevitable outcome of allowing the root of bitterness to overtake me!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Peg: I know you so I know that you practice this. But this is the question — Does God expect this child’s father to forgive his daughter’s murderer? Does he expect that I will be able to put aside the knowledge of what her little body endurded and yet forgive a man who has done such vile things that if I wrote them you wouldn’t even read them?

      • Peg Willis

        He may or may not “expect” us to forgive, but He knows we’ll never be free until we do. So He gives us the command and the opportunity. What we choose to do with it defines the outcome. It doesn’t change the one who has sinned, and it doesn’t change God. It changes me!

        • Peg Willis

          I guess I’m thinking God’s forgiveness is different from ours. HE can say, “your sins are forgiven – taken away.” I can only say, “I refuse to continue to harbor hate against you because of what you’ve done.”

      • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

        Karen, if you’re saying that the father in this story is not able to forgive in his own strength, then I agree. But the great news is that God gives us the ability to forgive.

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          James: But does he expect that out of us in this situation?

          • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

            I think so, but don’t know that I have enough scriptural evidence to win a theological debate over it. Not that you asked for that.
            I can say that on some occasions in Scripture, God expected one of His followers to forgive someone who it would seem very difficult to forgive. Acts 9 is one example: Saul is on the road to Damascus, and gets blinded by God, then sent to Ananias’s house. God tells Ananias that Saul, who has been mercilessly ordering the murder of Christians, is to be taken in and taken care of. He protests and reminds God of what horrific things Saul has done, but God tells Ananias (v.15) that he needs to do this. There’s no way to do what God instructs in that passage with any unforgiveness in his heart or mind.
            I guess that might be a special case, but it apparently does happen that God will have an expectation like that.
            By the way, I’m not arguing with you. I think you bring up an excellent question.

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  • Diane

    I am struggling with your post today. On one hand, there is only one sin that is ultimately unforgiveable and that is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. I have been taught, and it makes sense to me, that it means unbelief. So, could Hitler or Jeffery Dahmer becomes a Christian, YES, if they put their trust in Christ and his righteousness/sacrifice for them. Yes, we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. But doesn’t the murderer’s forgiveness by God depend on his confession and repentance. And only God really knows his heart. If he hasn’t even owned up to his sin then I guess I’d wonder. It’s between him and God. Unforgivenss on your part is not for the murderer’s sake.
    s benefit but for yours, so a root of bitterness doesn’t set it. I’m still chewing on it…but these were my intial thoughts.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      You know I probably don’t reallly believe that. I don’t believe that God forgives Hitler.
      My faith isn’t big enough, I guess.

      • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

        Would that bother you if a horrible killer did receive forgiveness from God?

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          Yes.

          • Diane

            I’m saying Hitler could be forgiven, not that he was…I don’t know if he ever repented and asked God for forgiveness. At least you’re honest in saying it bothers you. I guess in some ways, I’m as responsible for Christ’s death and murder as the ones who nailed him to the cross, because it’s my sin that put him there.

    • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

      Dahmer did become a Christian.

      • Karen Spears Zacharias

        Or so he said. But the issue for me is not that God forgives them — He’s God after all. The question for me is does God expect the loved ones of the victim to forgive Dahmer?

        • Diane

          I would say yes, but that is a process and not something that happens right away….I’d think they’d need to grieve the loss first. Is it just the absurdity of them being able to forgive that you struggle with, or the fact that God might expect them to do it? I don’t presume to speak for God. I was just going by what I know of the Scriptures about forgiveness.

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  • http://katdish.net/ katdish

    I struggle with this. A lot. I suppose what I struggle with the most is a father forgiving a man who not only killed his child, but will not own up to what he did. In my way of thinking, God forgives those who confess their sins. That hasn’t happened here. Or at least it hasn’t appeared to have happened. So yeah, right or wrong, I understand where you’re coming from.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Perhaps the forgiveness is embedded in humility — and in the understanding of the great evil that lies within.

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  • Melissa Chamberlin

    Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person will die. When you don’t forgive, the only person you are punishing is yourself.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Melissa: I understand this. I have experienced this. I just am not sure that we really practice this. Most of us have a hard enough time forgiving a pastor for perceived and unintended wrongs. Can you imagine forgiving someone who truly embodies evil?

      • Diane

        Maybe that’s the answer to a lot of problems in this world. You’re right…we don’t practice it as we ought.

  • http://amysorrells.wordpress.com Amy Sorrells

    Karen, I’ve been trying to write a response for 30 minutes and I can’t write anything that makes sense. Nothing about injustice makes sense. Nothing about psychopaths makes sense. They make me nauseous with anger.

    I know God commands us to forgive.

    But I believe He forgives us when we can’t.

    That’s all I can say that makes 1/2 a bit of sense right now.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Amy: I understand the frustration. On one hand, yes, I know grace has to be without limits or it isn’t grace is it?
      On the other hand, I struggle because I know story after horrific story about wrongs inflicted upon others that seem simply unforgivable to me. And in the face of real evil — which I believe this case to be — I simply am not sure that God expects us to forgive. I’m not sure in the face of the darkest of evils that God forgives. Does God forgive the men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and left a pregnant woman a widow? A child fatherless?
      Does God turn his head when a man beats a child to the point of death?
      Most of us have a hard time forgiving a sibling for a snub. Can you imagine forgiving the man who murdered your son?

      • pep

        I understand everything you are saying. And I think we are to learn from the unmerciful servant example in scripture. To truly be forgiven and act like it to others (Christianity 101), I think, requires a work to be done in us that is only of the Spirit. We cannot do it in our own human effort or logic. IMHO.

  • http://stiemsma.tumblr.com/ Kyle

    The obvious scripture to put into play here is Matthew 6. Forgive to be forgiven. I’ve often thought of it this way: If that man somehow miraculously has a genuine change in his heart and accepts Jesus, the Book says salvation is his. If salvation is yours as well then that means you are going to be in a place of eternal joy some day–with this monster. If you or I can’t forgive him then that means we are taking anger and resentment into a place where anger and resentment can’t be.

    That being said, I know I for one will need to experience a radical transformation in order for this to happen, so I trust that Jesus will take care of the details. The truth is anything we write might sound good on paper (or a computer screen), but reality is much different, and it will take an act of God greater than parting any sea for us to forgive monsters like that.

    I’ll admit I take great comfort in Matthew 18: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
    If seeing and hearing about the wounds of a child make us angry, sad, confused imagine how Jesus feels. It is in these situations that I’m thankful for God’s wrath (which I believe is a function of His love.)

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Kyle: Yep. I like that verse too. I happen to think that verse is evidence that there is a certain kind of evil which God expects us to rise up against. An evil so great that grace does not cover it. Not the mamby-pampy grace that we ascribe to, the one that doesn’t allow us to forget the way we were slighted at work or the way our parents failed us.

      • Diane

        Forgiveness doesn’t negate the consequences for our sin. So, yes we should rise up against injustice and evil. Is it like discipling a child? You do it because they need it and they have consequences even though you forgive them.

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          True. It doesn’t negate the consquences.

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  • Chris

    @Karen,

    The simple answer is yes we are suppose to forgive. But this is hard to deal with. For example I was angry at God for allowing my wife to get pregnant and then praying for the baby but it dying inside of her. I was so mad at him and did not want to forgive God. However the reason why I say yes is because it is found through out scripture as central theme. Starting in the Garden of Eden we find God making a prophecy of Jesus who is going to make a way for human kind to be with the Father. The theme of the whole bible is God’s forgiveness to a sinful human kind. Now Starting in the Old Testament we find that Israel sinned greatly but not only Israel all of human kind (hence the book of Jonah). However what does God do he pursues his creation into repentance by showing them love and mercy. In saying that there are actions for your sin, that is unchangeable. Israel’s sin brought exile and destruction but even in the mist of that God says if you will come back to me I will forgive and then reestablishes his covenant (Hosea 11).

    Skip to the New Testament we find Jesus who forgives the people while they were killing him, not only that but tells peter forgive 70 x 7, along with the statements we find Jesus teaching judge and you will be judged, show mercy and will be given mercy. Love your enemy. Then when you get to the Apostle Paul, which most of Western Christianity theology is based on, and you find the same theme. Do good to those you hurt you, by doing so you dumb a lump of coal on their head (Romans 12). Romans 2 after he explains in chapter 1 that God gave the world over to its sin, states that who are we to judge, because we do the very same things as them. Then Paul states in roman 8 that God is making us into the image of Christ and that means being just like Jesus.

    Now that I stated my case I purpose to you that there will be a day of reckoning. But that is for God to do not us. The of living eternity away from God is enough. If God can forgive Israel who became like the pagans by sacrificing babies and living sexual impure and then he can forgive us, then who are we to not forgive others even in the darkest situations.

    (forgive me for my spelling and grammar lol)

    Chris

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Chris: I look forward to the day of reckoning — for others — not so much for myself.

      I am sorry about the death of your precious child.

      But I’m not sure that an eternity without God is punishment enough for some.

      • Chris

        Well it is because of the fact that right now even though they reject the love of God he is all around the world but imagine a lake of fire with all darkness and no light no calling upon God for help. No more raining on the unjust and the just perspective.

  • Pat

    I do believe that God expects us to forgive in the same way that He does–even the most grotesque and horrific offenses imaginable. But it’s a process. I wouldn’t expect the father of this murder victim to get over this overnight. If he’s to ever get over it though, it will take some effort on his part. I have experienced deep hurts; the ones to which I felt a physical heartache. But I came through those experiences having grown in my faith. I didn’t come through perfectly mind you, but I came through and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned it’s that each time I see how far I am from sanctification. And yet, God loves me and forgives ME for not being able to go that extra mile. And He gives me another day and another opportunity in which to work it out.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Pat: I’m not sure we can forgive others in the way that God does. Can we really do that? I don’t mean in word but in truth?
      And I would say that maybe coming out on the other side, going on with your life, becoming a person who hopes and laughs and lives again may be a form of forgiveness.
      Perhaps the best we can do.

  • http://www.2b4giving.com/?TargetPage=5292F700-1ECD-42DE-977E-9259DDAA45E4 Bill

    Karen:

    I struggle with forgiveness nearly every day and I know that I am expected to do better. A friend of mine put it very well for me once….”Bill, how long can you live without forgiveness.”

    Here’s a real life example of the forgiveness we’re discussing….Pastor Darrell and Sherri Beebe:

    Darrell and Sherri and their children suffered a traumatic and violent attack in 1986 while they were serving as missionaries in the island nation of Palau. While trying to protect his family, Darrell was beaten, stabbed, hit over the head with a shotgun swung like a baseball bat, and then with a gun held to his head, his wife was beaten, kidnapped and then horribly abused. His daughter was abused and his son was assaulted and threatened with death. When they were finally able to escape they learned that Darrell’s head injuries were still life-threatening. He was flown to Hawaii for emergency brain surgery. During that trip God miraculously healed him prior to surgery.
    The greater miracle is the way that God has healed the family’s emotional wounds and taught them the power of true forgiveness.

    They now speak all over the NW and they are really something.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Bill: I have witnessed the kind of fogiveness that these folks have extended and it’s humbling. I think of Corrie Ten Boom, whom Vasca mentioned earlier. I know that people come to a place of forgiveness, sometimes. But I can’t help but wrestle with this issue of great evil. I think it’s wonderful when God heals deep emotional wounds. But what should it mean for this father to forgive the man who brutally murdered his daughter? Does that mean he embraces him warmly and extends a hand of fellowship?

  • Lillian

    Karen, I pray every day, in fact more than once a day, that I can forgive the terrorists that murdered my only daughter on 9/11. In turn, I ask God to help me accept His forgiveness of my sins…those of commission as well as those of omission….things I should have done but failed to do. After all we pray for God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against. us”

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Lillian: Oh,how my heart hurts for you so much of the time. I can’t imagine dealing with your grief, much less having the energy to try and forgive those terroists. I’m not even sure what such a forgiveness ought to look like. I think of you, of this child’s father, and of so many others I know who have faced evil, real evil, and I wonder what does God expect of us in light of this?

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  • http://koinepdx1.blogspot.com AF Roger

    God expects us to live. That comes across as a glib, shallow, simple retort. It has several paragraphs of explanation that invovle delicate details of a family member’s life that I don’t even wish to divulge here under the partial anonymity of my handle. I may say more in a private e-mail.

    That said, in the past decade, I have been moving toward forgiveness in the sense that I no longer think daily about getting an AK-47 and taking care of what the criminal justice system never could. Forgiveness also means no longer actively wishing him evil, but as Rob Bell says, moving to the point of wishing him well–and one of the best well-wishes I could have would be for him to come to terms with his crimes, to have a clue, to in some way feel as vulnerable as a human being as he made the rest of us. Forgiveness means choosing to end the power his crimes once had over our lives. Put me in a room alone with him, though, and we’ll see how much progress I’ve really made… I could imagine no circumstances in which we could be buddy-buddy. But I can imagine all kinds of circumstances in which I treat the world more wisely, more graciously, more compassionately and with deeper love today because I am always given the opportunity to choose: either continue the cycle of violence or end it in small ways where and when I can.

    Forgiveness means having no full and satisfactory answer to these many questions in this life but setting about the living of life, wounds, scar tissue and all–because the outcome and the resolution are not in doubt. Forgiveness means saying, “OK, these are the things I carry now. OK. On we go. No stopping now.”

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I was hoping to hear wisdom from you on this matter. And I appreciate the heart behind it — because I know, like Lillian, this is a matter with which you and your family have wrestled with throughout long nights. Because I know, I understand the power of your words here. I understand that perhaps forgiving means choosing to live and not to kill. Perhaps forgiving means finding a way to get out of bed in the mornings. Perhaps forgiveness means hoping, as you say, that the one who did the wrong comes to tersm with his crime. Perhaps forgiveness means choosing to end the power that he has to continue to destroy your lives.
      Thank you, Roger, for sharing from your pain with us.
      I don’t think God expects you to embrace this one. I’m not even convinced he expects you to do any more than what you’ve done.
      I think perhaps you’ve shown us here what such forgiveness ought to look like in the face of great evil.

  • Steve Taylor

    When I first read this last night, I wanted to rush to my computer and rip off a story or two that I had written on this question. Either would grip your attention. Either would bring tears, sharp intakes of breath, and moments of exclamation and awe. Child soldiers and restorative justice and shattered lives, and new hope, and all so very real, dramatic, and gut-wrenching. Somebody might have even thought, “Why isn’t that insightful,” maybe even offered up a word or two regards to such fine theological acuity.

    But then tonight happened, here at Eastern Mennonite University. I was asked by friends, Ched Myers and Elaine Enns to accompany them for a series of lectures they were giving. (Ched is an author/theologian/activist and Elaine is an author/teacher/and restorative Justice practitioner … read more of their incredibly important work at: http://bcm-net.org.) After they completed their brilliant discourse on the scriptural mandate for and practical and difficult practice of restorative justice as an individual and corporate act, they asked me to convey a story. It goes something like this:

    I was born in October of 1996, in Petersboro, Virginia.

    I had been asked to be part of a mission saturation event. This is an event in the Methodist church where mission interpreters come from all over the world to spend time with several dozen churches. Generally there is a large kick-off banquet and one or two key-note speakers. Then there are a lot of folks like me, the peanut gallery mission interpreters, who go out and speak with small groups in the various congregations. We stand at the main events and smile and wave and maybe give one or two minutes of who we are and from where we come.

    The event’s key-note was the Methodist Bishop from Russia, Bishop Meinor. He is an excellent speaker and has a great story. So I thought, well this isn’t going to be too bad. I settled back for an enjoyable evening. I wanted substance, but not so much that it claimed anything from me. It was Saturday night and after all, I had driven a long way from southern NC to give my wave and smile.

    After he finished I noticed that he and the pastor were going to the back of the altar area. It was then that I saw the communion trays. We were going to receive communion. Suddenly, I thought, “I have to get out of here, I can’t do this.” But I couldn’t just bolt for the door. I had already stood up and smiled and waved so everyone knew how I was “supposed” to act. I began to sweat and shake. Harry, my missionary buddy, noticed my discomfort and gently placed his hand on my shoulder. Finally, after long moments, I somewhat regained my composure and went up and joined in communion.

    After the service I approached Bishop Meinor, and said, “I have to ask your forgiveness.”

    He looked at me puzzled. “Why? I don’t know you.”

    “I know, but you see, for the last 20 years I have been in the United States Air Force, and for a good portion of that time, I controlled nuclear missiles that were pointed at you. If I had been asked to do the things I had to do in order to launch those missiles … I would have done my job.”

    Though there were 300 people moving about us, everything narrowed in. I could almost hear him breathing. I could definitely feel my heart pounding. His eyes opened with exclamation and fear as one discovering that a monster had entered one’s midst. I could see the realization sweep over his face as he visualized the destruction and the pain and the burning. I could see the nightmare as he heard the cries of his friends, his family, and maybe even the screams of his own anguished voice. I could see his shock as he clearly imagined the whole horrible landscape of annihilation and the death and suffering of millions.

    Long moments went by and he didn’t say a word.

    And then slowly and softly he said …“There are men in East Germany and Russia who have undergone the same struggle which you have endured. They are your brothers. So be forgiven.”

    It was grace. Only grace. And it was freedom.

    I want to be clear here. My daughter has not been raped and murdered. My son has not been sodomized by a trusted counselor. My wife has not been assaulted and left for dead. I cannot imagine how I could ever forgive in such circumstances. I’m sure I would rather kill. I cannot begin to understand the pain of Roger, Lillian, and others. I can only cry with them, hold them, and tell them I love them. To offer any other response seems cruel. Forgive? In such circumstance I just don’t know how.

    Yet, this I do know, I could never forgive without the community who continued to believe and hope and pray when I could not.

    And this I know as well … it is within me to do the thing that would destroy the world. What possibly could be more evil that that? Moreover, my willingness to do such has not been received with revulsion by most of my American brethren. Instead, it is celebrated. God forgive us all.

    I pray I can forgive. I pray that God forgives. I am sure I must be a coward, for there is more than a bit of selfishness in my prayer. For if not forgiveness, what hope for me?

    Yet maybe, hope after all, for I have already done the worst. I have murdered the son of God.
    And as he struggled for breath, battered and beaten and hated and scorned, he looked down upon the upturned faces and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    I can’t forgive, but perhaps somehow when the best I can do is keep breathing, Jesus can forgive through me. Maybe refusing to kill in return is enough. Enough for grace.

    I wonder if Bishop Mienor saw it all so clearly?

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Steve: So much to ponder here, as always. You’re right in that even our forgiveness is often extended for selfish purposes — so that we can take communion without guilt. So that God will show mercy to us.
      And,yes, I think you are correct when you say that the best we can do sometimes is to keep breathing. And maybe it is grace, and thus a form of forgiveness, that keeps us from killing the one who has wronged us so.
      Glad you and the good Bishop had that encounter but troubled that you are so right about how Americans would have applauded you, called you a hero had you been ordered to activate that missle.
      No wonder Jesus was compelled to plead our case due to our own ignorance.


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