I’ve been trying to go to school on the discussion following my last post on forgiveness. Along the way I’ve had doubts about whether I should have once again re-introduced the idea of knowing when to “lovingly withhold forgiveness.”
The very suggestion resulted in so much misunderstanding that at times I feared that I had started an “argument about words” that was not moving toward the goal of “bringing us together around matters that so easily divide us” (1Tim 6:4).
So let’s acknowledge what I think we can agree on. We all recognize the danger of unresolved, bitter, anger that leads to an obsession with trying to get even with someone who has harmed us.
We intuitively sense that we cannot grow spiritually if we are filled with contempt even for an enemy—that we know our Lord teaches us to love.
We also recognize that to forgive one another may still require us to lovingly hold one another accountable for follow through.
In the past, when purposely trying to work through emotionally charged issues, we’ve seen how important it is to get to the place where we respect one anothers’ right to disagree, while trying to know when to not press an issue beyond anothers’ patience.
In that regard, this last conversation on forgiveness has reminded me of the many different ways we come to such a discussion. Some are already so overstretched by the emotions of current responsibilities, past harms, or of lingering conflict, that “letting go of a desire for revenge” seems not only necessary for spiritual survival, but the only thing that really matters.
At this point I’d say to such persons, if that’s the way you are feeling, then you are right. Letting go of those bitter, re-cycling obsessions, and giving them to God so that we can express really Christ-like love toward others is where we need to be.
So on that ground we can, I believe, stand together.
Where we will apparently have to respect one another in our disagreement is over whether the following questions are helpful to clarify what we each have come to believe about forgiveness: i.e.
- Does our personal understanding of forgiveness enable us to better love (seek the highest good of) our enemies?
- Does our personal understanding of forgiveness enable us to see the right and wrong way of detaching ourselves from those who have harmed us?
- Does our personal understanding allow for what Jesus and Paul taught about holding accountable “brothers and ‘sisters” who harm us?
- Is forgiveness the only Christian virtue that we think can resolve the issue of our bitterness?
If so—then whatever it is that is keeping us apart is a far lesser issue… and something to–
…………………………………..let go :-)…