Saturday, October 16, 2010

Forgiveness

My attempts at seeking spiritual guidance have been less than fruitful.
A few years ago, I met with my parish priest to discuss forgiveness. You see, 25 years ago this month, my older sister was brutally murdered. Then 4 years ago the parole board let her murderer out of prison.

So I've been dealing with the concept of forgiving this man. It's a big job. Believe me. The only reason I can even consider it, is that I think my sister knew she would live a short life. When I think about her spirit, I'm sure she accepted her death. I can't tell you how I came to believe this but it does give me peace.

When I talked to my priest, he told me he thought that there are some things that are unforgivable - and this is probably one of them.

I don't like his answer. After all, God forgives all of us. Was he saying that even God wouldn't forgive my sister's murderer? I don't believe that is what the bible says. I mean, isn't that what the cross was all about?

McTwitchy and I were talking about this. He says he agrees with the priest - and that he can't imagine a heaven in which murderers, child-rapists and the like are in the same place as the rest of us.

Hmmm.
I see his point.
But I explained that I think we, mortal humans cannot comprehend the magnitude of God's grace. We won't possibly understand it until we see salvation.

We talked some more, McTwitchy asserting that even the greatest forgiveness couldn't possibly justify such deeds. Even God couldn't forgive the Jeffrey Dahmer's of the world.

That idea made me uncomfortable. I started to think, "I hope He does." I hope God's grace and forgiveness IS that big. Because if not... if God doesn't absolve the most atrocious sins... then my 'small' sins don't deserve forgiveness either.

I'm not saying that I can begin to imagine how big this grace, forgiveness and majesty is... but I think I do believe that it is big enough to forgive even the truly horrendous.

Do you?

11 comments:

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erinannie said...

He is a merciful and just God. He can and will accept an honest request for forgiveness. But He will still give that person the judgment they deserve (Hell). Forgiveness still requires repentance, penitence, and rectifying that which has been wronged. There are only two things in this world that cannot be rectified, and those are the 2 greatest sins- murder, and adultery. You can't take them back.
So does the Lord forgive? He allows you to ask for forgiveness, and then he grants you judgment based on what you did.
We can forgive, but we don't have to forget. We should still respond to someone based on their penitence.
If someone has served their jail time and has changed, and requests forgiveness, it is our challenge to do so. But if they have not asked, and they have not shown, you don't have to do it. But don't harbor anger or ill will in your heart either.

TRS said...

Thanks for reminding me Erin, that was a part of our conversation. I said that if the person truly finds God,and is repentant - they may wind up in heaven. If it's just a show... God can see through it.

Holly said...

There is nothing anyone can do that God is not capable of forgiving. We however have to ask, believe in him, and obey him. That's not to say that God does not hate what happened to your sister. He absoluty does.

Forgiving others is ultimatly for us. The hate we harbor against others only damages us.

GentleDove said...

I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to your sister and your family.

If your sister's murderer repented of his evildoing and believes in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, that the Lord Jesus died on the cross for his sins, then his sins are forgiven, and he will go to heaven when he dies. Of course this would mean that he now will live for Jesus and never murder anyone ever again. (I'm sorry he was imprisoned and released on parole; he should have been executed.)

If he has not repented of his sin and does not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, then, when he dies, he will go to hell to be tortured for eternity. McTwitchy is right; a murderer, with no provision for his sin in Jesus, cannot go to heaven.

We all deserve an eternity in hell for our sins, even the little ones. For God is eternal, holy, and cannot tolerate sin in His presence (heaven). The mercy of God is that He sent His Son into the world to pay the penalty of sin for His people (those who would believe in Him), so that they are now judicially righteous in God's sight for the sake of Jesus Christ, and will be made perfect in the resurrection (also for the sake of Jesus Christ.

"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Krissie said...

I think God does forgive that, and I think that we should also forgive those things... and I don't say that lightly... I've had to work through my own path of forgiveness, and I found it's one thing to want to forgive, and totally different to actually forgive.

For me, I think forgiveness can best be explained on a human level as letting go.... letting go of holding someone accountable for their actions.

I wrote about it a few times, here's a link to one of those posts. http://www.kraedesign.com/blog/?p=134

I'm happy to share more specifics about my situation in email... I never blogged the details... and it certainly is not the same as what you are trying to process through, so it may not be helpful, but thought I'd offer.

Joyful said...

TRS,
I have been reading your blog for a while, but have never commented. I enjoy reading it because I feel like I can sort of relate to you. I too am single and looking for God's best. I felt like I needed to comment on this post. I am so sorry about your sister. I can't even imagine that happening to one of my sisters. I am sorry that her murderer was allowed out of prison.

Forgiveness is a hard thing. but it is something God commands us to do because of what He did for us. John 3:16 tells us that God loves us (the world) so much that He sent is only Son to die on the cross to forgive us of our sins. The "world" in that verse means everyone including rapists and murderers. Thinks about the thief on the cross next to Jesus. People that were sentenced to die on the cross were the worst of the worst. Jesus told him that He would see him in Paradise because he believed in Him and repented of his sin. Romans 10:9-10 says, that anyone who believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth will be saved. So, if the man who murdered your sister decides to give his heart and life to Jesus then he will go to heaven when he dies. I know this is a hard thing to wrap your mind around. Forgiveness is a choice on our part. I had a situation (nothing compared to yours), but where somone I cared about very much hurt me. I had to decide to forgive them or I would have no peace. Everytime I would think about that person, I would pray for them that God would bless them. Maybe you could pray that God would change this man's life and bring him to Himself.

I am sorry this is such a long post. I will be praying for you.

Sarah said...

I'm sorry for what you've suffered. Personally, I don't know if I could forgive that man.

But I have to agree that I hope that God would if he asked sincerely for forgiveness.

The point of grace is that it is unmerited. No one deserves grace. I disagree that there are unforgivable sins. I think honestly that the grace that God gives is a bit unfathomable. We humans have a hard time with mystery, but I don't think that Eucharist is the only mystery in our faith. That God would choose to come to earth, be born as a human, live a relatively simple life as a carpenter and die as a criminal... It's no more outrageous to believe that God can forgive something as truly awful as murder.

We take for granted the story of our faith because of its familiarity, but it should be shockingly good news. Miroslav Volf once lectured on embracing our enemies as God embraced us in Christ. When he was done, someone stood up and asked him as a Croatian if he could embrace a Serbian. He answered, "No, I cannot-but as a follower of Christ I think I should be able to."

Jesus says extremely hard things like "Love your enemies, bless and do not curse them." It is not in God's character to ask things of us that he himself is not willing to do. We know this to be true because of Christ.

I don't think I could forgive someone who murdered either of my brothers, but as a follower of Christ, I think I should be able to.

Genevra said...

I wish I had something thoughtful or brilliant to add on to what the others have written so far, but I don't. I will just say that in the end I think forgiving someone else has very little to do with them, and everything to do with you and your own healing.

I'm sorry to hear about your sister. I can't imagine having to experience and live with that pain.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Oh, TRS, I'm so sorry about your sister. I had no idea.

I can't imagine how difficult that is to carry and to forgive. My heart goes out to you.

But as hard as it is, that priest is wrong. There is nothing God can't forgive. His mercy is bigger.

Our feelings of justice - or INjustice - rise up, and I can understand the priest, and McTwitchy saying that some things are unforgivable. But where do we go for the truth? To God's own words.

1 Corinthians 6 talks about the "unrighteous" who will "not inherit the kingdom of God". And it describes them. (v 9-10) but then it goes on to say (v 11) "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ..."

So, it tells us, even the unrighteous can be made holy.

And who am I, but the unrighteous?

Doesn't mean God gives out blanket forgiveness to everyone. Or that He sweeps sin and evil under the carpet. Oh no, it doesn't say that.

And it doesn't in any way mean that He (or anyone else) condones murder, or any of the other terrible things we do. We know from His own word that He hates sin.

But He gives us a promise, in 1 John 1:9,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I'm praying for you, tonight, for comfort in your pain. And that God will bring you joy.

Julie

Ronnica said...

I'm sorry to hear about your loss, even all the years later. Good for you for continuing to seek the truth and not just stopping with what the priest said. I'm with you on this one: "I'm not saying that I can begin to imagine how big this grace, forgiveness and majesty is... but I think I do believe that it is big enough to forgive even the truly horrendous."

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