enforced forgiveness

enforced forgiveness October 19, 2011

Jesus told a story of a man who was forgiven a huge debt. Enough to retire on. After he was released from his debt and left the courtroom he found a friend who owed him a little money. Enough for a coffee. His friend couldn’t pay. So he choked him.

Forgiveness means giving someone something before they deserve it. You give it before they ask for it or before they even think they need it. You give it before the payment date to remove the debt. There can be no strings attached. You can’t even expect warm feelings in return.

True forgiveness is that the forgiven person doesn’t even know it. Perhaps the ultimate forgiveness is that the forgiver doesn’t even know it. (This reminds me of Derrida.)

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  • “True forgiveness is that the forgiven person doesn’t even know it. Perhaps the ultimate forgiveness is that the forgiver doesn’t even know it. (This reminds me of Derrida.)”

    Where did you get that from? Is that something that you made up?

  • Was the guy actually choked? (The one that was in debt the amount of a cup of coffee?) Tell me more about “true forgiveness” and how it happens–especially if I don’t know it. Reminds me of the immaculate concept: “noblesse oblige”

  • PS: I forgive you for our Facebook brew-ha-ha. Now you have to forgive me.

  • That sounds like some sort of office you worked in David – Holy Joe Forgiveness Inc. or some such religious business!

    Don’t you just hate ‘enforced’ love – it’s so fake!

  • Political Correctness?

  • You are so right. Forgiveness is freely given, or it ceases to be forgiveness.

    Great cartoon and commentary, David!

    Blessings!

  • @ David
    How do you keep coming up with all this great stuff — daily, nonetheless!!
    I must be that coffee you spoke of in the anachronistic Jesus parable (funny).

    Wow, thanx for sharing the story about the weird international ministry. But I have a question, you said:
    “I belieing in apologizing and I believe in forgiveness. But I don’t believe in enforcing it.”

    I get that — and the cartoon was brilliant. But I imagine you also don’t believe that God works by punishing a company’s sales as a way to tell them to dig up and confess sins, do you? But then, I get that is what the Old Testament teaches, isn’t it. Yahweh punished the whole nation of Israel (kids and all) because of the sins of a few.

    But I wager you see that as a metaphorical lesson and not the real operating method of God. Or am I mistaken. Or was the ministry right to seek out the sinners. BTW, did their finances improve after you were fired?
    (kidding)

  • PS David:

    I was wondering if you could (someday) put up a YouTube demonstration of how you draw your cartoons: the paper, drawing tools, the method (rough drafts-> final) and how you put it on the web.

    It would be very educational and great advertisement stuff, I’d imagine. Thank you.

  • While it seems bizarre to institute a special time for reconciliation because of flagging book sales and then to fire people who do not want to participate, we do realize that always different times of day or seasons in the year or special days have been set aside for such reflection, repentance and activity. And this can definitely be wholesome. Better on those days than never.

    I am guessing that it is Christians in non-sacramental and non-liturgical traditions don’t believe in or know the power of absolution from another human beings mouth.

    My hymnbook contains the evening prayer of Compline. Some people have used this every night since the 4th century and some people still use it every day or often (out of free will, desire and need, not brownie points.) I think it is a wonderful way to live in community.

    It goes like this, in case you don’t know it:

    Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.

    (Silence for reflection.)

    I confess to god almighty, before the whole company of heaven and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault; wherefore I pray God almighty to have mercy on me, forgive me all my sins, and bring me to everlasting life. Amen.

    The almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon, forgiveness, and remission of all your sins. Amen.

    I confess to God almighty, before the whole company of heaven and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault; to have mercy on me, forgive me all my sins, and bring me to everlasting life. amen.

    The almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon, forgiveness, and remission of all your sins.

    Amen.

    From there, you go onto the rest.

    It’s just such a wonderful basic platform to work from. We are each truly sinner, not the other guy, but “mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”. Yet, we don’t stay there. There is forgiveness. It is glorious.

  • fishon

    Steve Martin
    October 19, 2011 | 8:06 am

    “True forgiveness is that the forgiven person doesn’t even know it. Perhaps the ultimate forgiveness is that the forgiver doesn’t even know it. (This reminds me of Derrida.)”

    Where did you get that from? Is that something that you made up?
    —–Wow, Steve, even I can understand what David is saying here. I have seen it in action in a might big way through my wife towards me.

  • good idea sabio. one day maybe i’ll do that.

  • hi sabio. no i didn’t agree with the theology behind it either. and i’m not sure about the finances. although i think they are doing fine now.

  • @Sabio – Ezekiel taught that the consequences of sin (and righteousness) fall squarely on the individual, not the group. So even the Old Testament is shaky ground for justifying collective punishment.

  • @David – definitely one of your finer efforts. I’m doing my part toward making it go viral. 😉

  • I have to admit (even confess, though the contrition doesn’t shine thru). that almost every one of David’s cartoons and mostly the response they get suggests a righteousness against his variety of Bad Guys. It’s like a stand up comic who brings laughs cutting down folks and practices that no one in the audience recognizes as being complicit. Ha Ha they say. Or Tch Tch we say. Them bastards: don’t know how to forgive, don’t know how to be humble, don’t know compassion Etc. It’s possible David’s irony cuts both ways and we all recognize that bad guys as the myn in the mirror. But none of us admit it. We’re all goodies. Do I overstate? Understate? Hard to do justice to the good, bad, & ugly simultaneously. Like trying to speak out of 3 sides of my mouth at once. Sounds like tons of angles.

  • @ Jenny:
    The Old Testament (Jewish Compiled Sacred Documents) is an amalgam of different authors with differing theologies. So it would not be surprizing to find conflicting opinions in the OT.

    For instance:

    “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,”
    Exoduse 20:5

    Sounds like the group gets nailed there. And there are many more examples. Some of those Yahwehs were pretty mean, it seems.

  • @Sabio – Yes, it was Torah passages like that, that Ezekiel was arguing against. In his time, individual responsibility was a new idea in Jewish theology.

  • @Jenny
    Thanx. I now know I am pro-Ezekiel. When I get home, I will have to get a time-line together and see if any “prophets” after Ezekiel backslid into punishing entire nations and households for the sins of the few. (we won’t even go into what “sin” was to them).

  • Prior and on the basis of the Indo Ruropean
    proto longuage: the word “sin” derives from
    es, esse: “essence,” “being.” You can sense how the notion “original sin” might be a redundancy. Of course: being, essence = sin. Where does it begin to loses it’s wholeness and maybe “half” of being that we would deny and cover becomes the “whole” of “sin” which then becomes stigmatized and negative, rather than descriptive. Brigitte criticizes me for using these words (sin, damn, satan) in uncommon, and of course she’s right. The common sense is what counts. Uncommon generates confusion. Forgive.

  • We all live in a world that is being collectively punished. We, also, all live in a world, which has been collectively redeemed.

    We are also all free to reject all that.

    Sam, I was going to say, that the whole idea of “forcing” forgiveness is wrong. Also, the forcing of confession to proceed it. The whole idea of post-reformation theology is that things are not by force, oppression, outward acting, but faith (understanding the inherent goodness of it).

    And yet, Jesus illustrates the consequences of not doing it “freely.”

    This is part of “simul justus et peccator.” (Romans 7). There is always both going on paradoxically. Such as in the definitions of “freedom” in general: I am “free” to do happily what I ought, whatever is moral and ethical, as opposed to licence to do whatever.

  • Forcing forgiveness is ridiculous. Do we have to resort to scriptures and lines of prophets to clarify that? The capability of forgiving itself is maybe mysterious. How does it come about that one might forgive another whose actions are “unforgivable.” David has perhaps forgiven all those who put him through the wringer. Something miraculous there, and it has nothing to to with Ezekiel et al. I can’t claim to have anything like an “unforgivable” action launched at me, so my talk of “forgiveness” is merely theoretical. Is forgiveness of the big-deal kind just another word for Paulinehean “love” (of which I confess I have none; wish I did) or grace? Goodies and Baddies & can they Just Get Along?

  • @sam – I’m with you, Sam, my theology of forgiveness doesn’t rest on the historical sequence of the books of the Bible. The only reason I went to the Bible was to dig deeper into Sabio’s comment “that is what the Old Testment teaches.”

    Personally, I don’t believe that the Bible is the “literal inerrant Word of God.” But I do take the Bible seriously. For me, the Bible is the story that has come down to us culturally about the evolving relationship between humanity and God, and thus about relationships within humanity. In its teaching about God, humanity, and the relationship between them, it uses narrative, poetry, instruction, song, allegory, and metaphor.

    I think the Bible teaches us a lot about the theology of forgiveness, but, like you, I don’t believe that I have to quote book-chapter-verse to “prove” the truth of the theology.

  • fishon

    sam scoville
    October 19, 2011 | 1:46 pm

    Forcing forgiveness is ridiculous.
    ——“ridiculous” and impossible.

  • Madlen

    Thanks for your words today, David. You really touched my heart. You remind me of so many people I still have to forgive. So often I think it’s their turn to come, to apologise and ask for forgiveness – but it’s mine to forgive although they don’t even know they hurt me.
    That’s really tough.

  • Fishon,

    The whole point of the gospel is that forgiveness is given to us, and proclaimed to us.

    That is how God acts for us.

    If someone is not told they are free, they will sit in the cell..even with the door open.

    Forgiveness ought be communicated. And we can’t forgive people who have not wronged us.

  • steve: i appreciate what you have to say. but the truth is, and a good lutheran like you knows this, that it isn’t your acknowledgement of the freedom or acting free that saves you. you have been freed. you are free indeed. we all have to admit, no matter how much we know or how advanced we think we are in faith, we never live as free as we actually are.

  • fishon

    Steve Martin
    October 19, 2011 | 5:43 pm

    Fishon,

    The whole point of the gospel is that forgiveness is given to us, and proclaimed to us.

    That is how God acts for us.

    If someone is not told they are free, they will sit in the cell..even with the door open.

    Forgiveness ought be communicated. And we can’t forgive people who have not wronged us.
    ——–As I used previously as an example, my wife, I will now use again.

    There are times when I have hurt my wife by my stupid actions or words. But she has a love for me that that often times translates itself into forgiveness. Let’s say I say something cruel and unkind to her. It is not that she ignores or goes into denial that I have been unkind–but she has developed such a spirit of love and mercy that she often times does not, chooses not to make what I say a matter of having to forgive. She has developed an attitude of love for me which causes her to forgive my stupidy without coming to a place where she sees a need to forgive. It is kinda like her love has already granted me forgiveness–therefore, when the time comes to engage it, it was already done because of love.

    Now I don’t expect you or anyone to understand. But that is how it works in our family.

    Oh, one other thing, we do things to each other, and we don’t think that the other needs to seek our forgiveness. What many people would consider a thing happening to them as a need to have someone seek forgiveness for–we do not see the need. To us, the issue is not a forgiveness issue.

    I’ll stop; just causing confusion.

  • Sarah

    For me, forgiveness is just letting go.

  • i like how you said that fishon. clear. thanks.

  • Nancy T.

    I had two thoughts come to me.

    One, was the line from the early 70s movie, “Love Story”. It was a key line in the book and movie, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. I always thought it was a horrible line. My own sense of (justified) hurts and injuries demanded that someone SHOULD say they are sorry, if they truly love the person.
    It was years later that I realized that the importance was on the ‘have’. The line wasn’t ‘Love means never saying your sorry’… it was, “Love means never HAVING to say you’re sorry.” And then, it still doesn’t really make sesne, until you really grasp what is meant by ‘love’… not the romantic stuff, or the noun… the verb, “love”, in the fullest sense.

    The second thing I thought of, was a favourite line of mine. When I’ve done something kind, and someone responds with, “you didn’t have to do that”, or “you shouldn’t have done that”… my favourite response is, because it is so very true, “…well it’s good that I didn’t HAVE to then, because if I HAD to, it would have taken all the fun out of it”

  • It is often better when forgiveness is asked for and verbally expressed. How many people can NEVER say: “I am sorry.” ??? Like NEVER! It is good practice. Humbling. The right thing to do. Puts us in the right place. Try it tonight. And then let the other express forgiveness. It is a good thing.

    It does not mean that it has to be done for every little thing, though little things can really add up and irritate just the same. Fishon, try apologizing to your wife and see if this is not highly meaningful to her and a release. (!) 🙂 ?

    I’ve found that in discussing on the internet, we often say things in the heat of the moment that we regret some time later. I find that more often than not it is a Lutheran (since NP brings this up) who will actually say: “I am sorry, please forgive me”, than people of other denominations, some of which think that now they are Christians they should be so nearly perfect that this is hardly necessary rather than a daily exercise. (This is obviously anecdotal.) I have apologized various times and I have seen Steve Martin apologize various times. I have seen people apologize from Cranach blog. I can hardly remember anyone else having done so anywhere else. I don’t recall anyone on this blog ever apologizing since I’ve been here. Instead there is often, as Sam would quickly point out, a lot of finger pointing. (Fishon I have seen restrain himself to let the other have the last word. This, too, is a good practice, at times.)

  • Fishon,

    Jesus said, “If your brother sins, tell him about it, and IF he repents, forgive him.”

    Maybe you can straighten Him out the next time you talk to Him. 😀

  • fishon

    Brigitte
    October 19, 2011 | 8:06 pm
    Fishon, try apologizing to your wife and see if this is not highly meaningful to her and a release. (!) ?
    —–Brigitte, be it know that I am not shy about asking my wife for forgiveness. Sorry if you misunderstood. After 44 yrs of marriage, I still need to ask for it on occasion. Thankfully I am not quite as stupid, ignorant, and insensitive as I once was.

  • “We’re all crazy egos, hungry for love.” said Sherwood Anderson. Lacking, needy, needy, wanting, yearning, full of desire: the poor we are we have with us always. It’s the denial and cover-up that generates my toxic psychic waste and thickens my bozone layer. Lutherans quicker to apologize than Presbyterians (which sect?), than Baptists? (Southern? Northern?) Quakers? Mormons?
    Etc. Who amongst you has the fastest forgiveness record? You’re all welcome to join First Church of The Crippled & The Lame Shall Enter First: we are the most pathetic wretches of all and can’t cover it up, damnit or of course we would..

  • Jenny Howard

    Preach it, Sam!

  • fishon

    sam scoville
    October 20, 2011 | 5:14 am

    “We’re all crazy egos, hungry for love.” said Sherwood Anderson. Lacking, needy, needy, wanting, yearning, full of desire: the poor we are we have with us always. It’s the denial and cover-up that generates my toxic psychic waste and thickens my bozone layer. Lutherans quicker to apologize than Presbyterians (which sect?), than Baptists? (Southern? Northern?) Quakers? Mormons?
    Etc. Who amongst you has the fastest forgiveness record? You’re all welcome to join First Church of The Crippled & The Lame Shall Enter First: we are the most pathetic wretches of all and can’t cover it up, damnit or of course we would..

    —-Sam, unless you are pulling legs, I was wondering– Does anyone in the First Church of The Crippled & The Lame Shall Enter First: have any joy [I didn’t say “happy”] or hope [use your definition of hope] for this life or the second for that matter?

  • The principle holds: church is about forgiveness of sins, and that said out loud–proclaimede. If you don’t like that, you will become about something else, and that will lead you in your own direction; for better or for worse?

  • Fishon. Joy to the whirl (which I agree is not the same deal as happiness). An emerging phenomena, maybe. Rising up out of a congregation and communion of the “pathetic.” What David might call the “naked”–stripped down, “broken” even–no longer able to deny and cover-up the poverty and independence and self-esteem and confidence of our own lives, damnit. Perfect and just right prerequisite for First Church of the Crippled and Lame Shall Enter First. No legs pulled. None of us in this “church” have a leg to stand on. You know what I’m saying, Fishon. Probably the only one on this thread who does. I’ll let you define “hope.” (When I quoted an author who said “I write every day without hope and without despair” — my dear old mom said “O I couldn’t live with out my hope.” Of course she carried considerable despair too.

  • Sarah

    Fishon- that’s just love innit. After 5 months with my boyfriend somethings just don’t need to be said.

  • @ Steve Martin,
    Jesus said, “If your brother sins, tell him about it, and IF he repents, forgive him.”
    You beat me to it.
    I’m with you on this one.

  • Jenny Howard

    @The Godless Monster and @Steve Martin

    Jesus said, “If your brother sins, tell him about it, and IF he repents, forgive him.”
    You beat me to it.
    I’m with you on this one.

    It sounds like you’re saying that means “if and only if he repents.” That’s not a reasonable interpretation, for several reasons. (If I’m mistaken, and that wasn’t your implication, please accept my apologies and ignore this comment.)

    First, basic logic: that a statement is true doesn’t imply that its inverse is true; e.g.”If it’s a dog then it has 4 legs” doesn’t imply “If it isn’t a dog then it doesn’t have 4 legs.” Similarly, “If he repents, forgive” doesn’t imply “If he doesn’t repent, don’t forgive.”

    Second, surrounding context: The passage containing this verse (Luke 17:3) is about the obligation of forgiveness, not about when it’s acceptable not to forgive. For example, the very next verse is the well known “And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent’, you must forgive.” The point of the passage is Christ’s call to forgive even when it seems unreasonable; no thoughtful interpretation could read Christ’s point as identifying exceptions to the call to forgive.

    Third, original language: The Greek word for ‘if’ in this passage, ‘ean’, means something more like ‘whenever’. Unlike our English word ‘if’, it doesn’t have the additional meaning of ‘only if.’

    Finally, the author’s perspective. This formula, which explicitly calls for repentance from the sinner as part of the larger call to forgiveness, is a particular interest of Luke. Similar passages elsewhere don’t include this. I doubt that I can say it better than Fred Craddock: “In the Matthean form of the saying (Matt.18:15,21-22) forgiveness seems to be unconditional, and Matthew does not mention repentance, which is probably Luke’s addition here — it is a special theme and interest of his. In the Lukan view, repentance is the precondition of forgiveness and reconciliation (13:3,5; 15:11-32; Acts 2:38; 17:30). This does not mean, however, that Luke instructs the offended party to withhold forgiveness until he or she receives an apology.” (Emphasis mine.)

    As a general rule, I’m reluctant to cite single verses as a way to prove exceptions to the overarching themes in Christ’s teachings of peace, reconciliation, and love. This example shows why.

  • @Jenny Howard,
    I’ll try to keep this brief for the sake of sanity.
    If you haven’t figured out by my moniker, I’m an atheist.
    Steve is a fundamentalist Christian. Steve believes in and follows the Bible. At least those parts that he agrees with. But I digress…
    There is “what is” and there is “what should be”.
    I believe in your message, but I don’t see the Bible as supporting it, despite the lesson in apologetics I was just given. If indeed I AM wrong and it does support your view, then this simply provides additional proof of the Bible’s maddeningly inconsistent message and its gross inadequacy as a guide for morality.

  • Jenny Howard

    I thought that might be the case, GM. But I wasn’t sure — it’s the kind of nickname that a liberal Christian might adopt to mock what the Christian extremists call him.

    Of course I agree that the Bible is maddeningly inconsistent. How could it not be — it’s a collection of poems, stories, letters, and other genres written by different authors at different times for different purposes. In many (most?) cases, even any one book of the Bible will bear marks of multiple authors.

    That’s why I approach the Bible as I would approach mythology. (Not mythology in the sense of something untrue, but mythology as a way of expressing a truth through story and verse.) No single Bible verse contains the ultimate truth about the nature of God, the nature of humanity, or the relationship between the two. Yet that is the theme of the Bible overall, and I’ve been able to learn much from the Bible by reading it as a collection that develops human understanding of this theme over time.

    As far as your atheism, that’s fine with me. As the saying goes, “Some of my best friends are atheists.” Someone whose starting point is that something must be objectively observable in order to be believed could hardly be anything but an atheist. That’s not my starting point, though. But that’s what makes horse races. 🙂

  • @Jenny Howard,
    Thank you for your kind and measured response.
    “Some of my best friends are atheists.”
    All of my friends and one of my children are Christians. 🙂
    TGM