Dives has apologized, Lazarus needs to learn how to forgive

Dives has apologized, Lazarus needs to learn how to forgive August 5, 2014

Here is a story, the Parable of the Penitent Public Figure and the Unforgiving Patriarch Who Refused to Accept His Apology Like Jesus Commanded:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.

The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.”

That’s a plea for forgiveness. Clearly, then, Abraham’s duty is to accept Dives’ apology and forgive him. But Abraham unkindly rejects this plea and Lazarus says nothing at all.

And whoever it is who’s telling this story seems to side with them in their un-Christlike denial of forgiveness.

Scot McKnight laments that Abraham, Lazarus, and the Storyteller all just don’t seem to understand Jesus’ example of unconditional forgiveness:

Now that Dives has confessed and apologized for his sins, we are called to forgive.

I am saddened by the vitriol spilled out against Dives. This is an expression of scapegoating and mob/crowd anger.

I am saddened because I think so many are Othering Dives when they should have been taking the posture of Jesus — who forgave his enemies, killers and those who brutally and viciously attacked him with violence. I am saddened because I know some of these same people are more than willing to join in the song of grace that Brennan Manning sings — over and over — but for Dives they see no need to forgive. Perhaps they are convinced that his motives are impure, which they might be but do we really know this? Perhaps they are convinced he deserves more denunciation. In my view so many have named their victimization well, they have named his sins publicly, they have named what he has done and have had their say.

What is next? Is it to grind away? Is it to turn our anger into the mob action that results in scapegoating? What is next?

What I know is Jesus struck a path that was marked by an aggressive, offensive act of forgiveness toward his enemies, knowing that love and grace melt more hard hearts than the mob-like scapegoating acts to which we are all tempted.

But this Storyteller and Abraham aren’t interested in such radical forgiveness. They’re so intent on taking Lazarus’ side in this controversy that they just keep angrily grinding away even after Dives has apologized.

And what about Lazarus himself, who never says a word? Look, obviously, yesbutofcourse [insert pro-forma acknowledgement of Lazarus’ suffering here]. But if Lazarus understood Jesus, then he would realize that he has a duty to accept Dives’ apology and to forgive him.

If Abraham really wants to help Lazarus here and to be a genuine advocate for victims like him, then Abraham needs to realize that the best thing he can do for his friend would be to urge him to accept that apology. That’s the only way Lazarus will ever find True Healing.

These people in the photo below are just like Lazarus. They’re standing outside the gate and refusing to respond to an apology with unconditional forgiveness.

Seattle Times photo by Marcus Yam. Click photo for link to original article.


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