Monday, December 16, 2013

On Suffering and Forgiveness

I'm realizing that forgiveness, though commanded, is also something that is given.  It is definitely something we are responsible to grant, and it is an act of the will, yet it is also a gift from our Forgiver to us, a gift that gives life to our dead bones.  It is something that can be taught 1,000 times and have no real force behind it until the day it descends upon you from above.  It is something that finds its true weight and force and power and beauty not in the lightest and easiest offenses to dismiss but in the most grievous and painful betrayals to bear.

And I know this not because I have forgiven much.  I know this because by God's grace I am drawn to the edge of the camp where the fire of forgiveness burns.  I have felt it's warmth and seen it's light.  I have dabbled in it for a time, for moments here and there, and then I have run back to the cold outskirts of darkness and hatred and bitterness.  I see that while it is indeed an "act", it is also a permanent or committed shift in one's disposition toward the offender. 

And this brings me to today...

I was on Facebook, and I saw one of my Friends "like" a photo from a page.  This was not just any old Facebook page.  It is the page that belongs to someone who has done great wrong to me, someone who may still be doing wrong and may do it again, given the opportunity.  What bothered me was not that this Friend liked something on this page.  My friend does not know what happened.  It was that my friend was unwittingly accepting this person, and their endeavors... even showing support in a sense to something good this person is doing.

See... I don't want that person to do well.  I don't want them to be happy, to succeed, or to have other people think they are a good person.  I want people to know what they did, and I want people to hate them and take my side.  I don't want them to be lauded and appreciated.  I want people to see the truth.  I want them to suffer like I suffered (and still suffer).  I want them to truly know what they put me through.

And I want to forgive them... at least part of me does.  Or actually, I'll be honest.  I only want to forgive them because I know I should, because I don't want forgiveness withheld from me, and because I know it will free me inside.  Otherwise, I want them to suffer.  I really do.

This is where I must confess my inability.  I know my hatred is sinful, but I don't feel bad for hating the person.  I really don't.  How can I forgive when I really don't want to?

I don't know, but I am reminded of the story of Corrie Ten Boom.  I am reminded of how she was approached years later by one of the horrible guards from the Nazi concentration camp.  He said that he was a Christian then, that he had found the Lord, and asked her for forgiveness.  She could not.  She remembered her sister's agony and death, and she remembered this man's involvement in it.  She couldn't do it.  But forgiveness came through her toward him.  It was not of her own power.  That is what I need.

On a similar thread, Ten Boom wrote in her book, The Hiding Place...

“When He tells us to love our enemies He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

And though I am not there, yet, something did strike me today.  As I sat there and thought of and felt the pain I went through and still carry with me, I saw Christ in my mind's eye, suffering as well.  I don't mean that He was suffering my pain, though He does.  I mean that I saw Him suffering in this world.  I saw Him suffering the same kinds of tragic betrayal and rejection.  I saw Him suffering the hurt of lies and coldness and trickery.  These, among many, many other things, are the sufferings of Christ in this world.

In other words, I saw my sufferings as part of a greater whole -even the sufferings of Christ in this world.  And with that, there was a moment where I felt a kind of joy and peace in that... to know that I am bearing the sufferings of Christ with Him, to know that He not only knows of my sufferings but that, in my own way, I understand and feel His.  These sufferings are wrong.  They are not how things are supposed to be.  But they are... "appropriate" for this age.  They are a part of this world.

Yes, they are part of God's plan, as well -something the sufferings of Christ bear the greatest testimony to.  But in this way, I feel even slightly closer to Jesus -again, not because He understands how I feel but because I may in fact understand His agony to some degree.

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