Josh j Smith


Forgiveness | additional thoughts
November 12, 2007, 8:32 pm
Filed under: society, theology | Tags: , ,

I was reading over my previous post and had additional thoughts.

I thought it was interesting that on Halloween they made sexual offenders post a sign on their door saying “No Candy At This Residence” in Maryland. My wife, Gina, commented that it is smart – keep them away from the temptation of making the mistake again. Gina is very wise. But now everyone will judge and socially outcast that house, that family, that person because of the sign. The names on the internet are a subtle way of communicating the truth, but the sign is full exposure to neighbors, friends, and coworkers.

The problem I have with this is not the necessary action to protect children – please protect children and protect the offenders from hurting children and people. The problem is our exaggerated judgment upon these offenders for their mistakes. Would we treat these people different if everyone else knew all the things we struggle with. If there was a list on our door or on the internet that revealed all our sins, would we be so quick to judge? Would we be so quick to outcast people?

Isolation deceives. We isolate ourselves so that we will not be isolated. We hide the truth from people because we know how they will respond – as if no one else makes mistakes or does things they are embarrassed of. There are too many pastors, leaders, business professionals, husbands, wives, and children that are in isolation because they know that if they confess the truth it threatens their livelihood. At one degree it might be necessary to loose the job or temporarily be isolated from normalcy. So we take the risk of isolating the truth of our inner struggle to avoid isolation from things we depend on – job, friends, family, house, neighborhood, reputation.

Forgiveness frees people to be vulnerable. If we learn to forgive the big and the small offenses, it might save a divorce, stop a school shooting, prevent people from becoming sexual offenders, and hault rising prices caused by thievery (maybe forgiveness is the answer to rising gas prices). Forgiveness is the reason to confess. We might find that upon confessing we put our livelihood at risk, but having our livelihood in isolation is hell on earth. At least, loosing our livelihood for confessing the truth is choosing the road that leads out of hell.

The majority of us would agree that stable marriages, safe schools and neighborhoods are all good things. The Kingdom of God is this and much more, but it means that we must be risky. Jesus came to us with an agenda for us to follow. He knew that people are not going to be vulnerable all the sudden. He knew that people are not going to be radical forgivers unless they see others forgiving them radically. With small, subtle changes in our own life and patterns, we will achieve what we all strived for through our own agenda – making a difference.



forgiveness
September 23, 2007, 8:37 pm
Filed under: society, theology | Tags: , ,

There was an interesting conversation on NPR centered around sexual offenders and their names published for all to see on the internet. There is tension because the life of this sexual offender is forever influenced by this public information, yet this public information is deemed valuable to concerned neighbors and co-workers.

As I understand it, as long as the name resides on the list everyone has the right to treat the person as an outcast. Can the person be forgiven for such a crime? And does forgiveness for this mean the name being deleted from this list? Finally, does forgiveness mean that person should be trusted again?

Forgiveness, too often, is taken lightly. If we were honest with ourselves, we would know that fear drives us to keep people who hurt us far away. So we say we forgive, but in our hearts we know that this person will never be the same to us. Not only are offenders outcast by those they hurt, but those never hurt or will hurt or even know. Outcasts are not a result of crime, they are a product of unforgiving people.

Is it possible that when Jesus challenges us to forgive over and over, that he is actually challenging us to trust and continue to trust that person no matter how much they wrong us? Is it possible that Jesus is challenging us to wipe the slate clean when we forgive people, to treat them as if they have done no wrong? Finally, what would this world look like if we forgave like that?

It is easy to assume the worst. However, maybe the Kingdom of God can be experienced through this radical type of forgiveness. It would be ridiculous if people kept trusting and forgiving, but in many cases that is what Jesus calls to be – ridiculous. We might come to find that the lack of authentic forgiveness is the reason for increasing violence, sex offenders, and injustice.

Forgiveness frees people to be vulnerable. The more forgiving we are, the more people are willing to be vulnerable and confess what makes them inhuman; the more willing we will be to confess our inhumane acts. Forgiveness is a full expression of love that moves us closer to finding out what it means to be human. I am sure that the prodigal son that Jesus talks about, never felt so human than when his father treated as if he never left.