Monday, March 9, 2009

Making some sense of forgiving & blessing the Enemy and responsibility

Locked in inner turmoil in understanding the mandate to bless our enemies and do good to them seems to really bother me a lot. One of the things that bothered me was, if I bless this person of who has cause me much pain and inner turmoil will God simply let him go? Will God exhaust his anger and simply overlook to just turn his face upon what this person has done to me? Will this enemy of mine just take in the forgiveness that I give him and simply have no remorse about what he did? Not even lint sized remorse? Will he just take the forgiveness for granted and look at it as judgment upon me and that he deserved me to bow low to his authority without the faintest doubt that he did anything wrong?

These are things that go through my mind. These are the things that I struggle with. This is the reason I find that forgiving the enemy (a so called Christian fellow) whom has wronged me, with me obvious of my innocence. Some further questions come to mind again to propel making sense to Jesus' mandate. Let's point it specifically to a church community.

What is our call? What is the responsibility of the believer of who has been wronged?

(Most of the reflections is from the epistle of James) His responsibility is to endure through the turmoil. Keep on living a life in response to the faith... But most importantly committing oneself to God and that means much more towards leaving judgment to him. The responsibility of the believer who was wronged is to forgive the brother who has wronged him, if so his enemy and still treat him with respect (this comes as a problem if the person holds a position of status and he is actually in the wrong) in the order of blessing and doing good to our enemy.

Some thoughts come to mind…how do we actually pray for our enemies? How do we bless those who persecute us? This is a big question mark to me but I am still struggling through it. This is simply a different code of ethic. At this point I think the common knowledge here is simply; we are mere humans and judgment of determining right and wrong belongs to God. If we trust in a God who is impartial, who helps the poor and those in the position of injustice we can take the forgiveness route because we trust one that will bring no partiality in how judgment is supposed to be executed.

I think the key element here is trusting a God that is just. The struggle is waiting for judgment to happen or to be executed. Trusting God is living in this tension.

I think most of the explanation here leans on the part where the person wronged and he can do nothing about it already.

What is the responsibility of the leadership of the church of knowing the issue at hand?

Given the responsibility of shepherding the church and keeping the unity of the community, the church cannot simply sweep matters arising under the rug and make hasty decisions out of anger and without much digging in the facts. The church leadership cannot also just listen to one side of the story and simply believe without question the situation at hand.

Here is what I believe the church leadership's responsibility lays. They are to be the neutral ground in keeping the peace of the community. Possible horrible mistakes that they can either lean to is making decisions without bringing both opposing parties to hear out their views, to judge by status, to simply pursue 'reconciliation' of both opposing parties without even settling out the issue because they want to arrive to making peace and keeping the community in tack with a simple exhortation that says both have to accept God's mandate of forgiving one another.

To me all the above really does not solve the issue because the body where justice should be 'executed' because the church leadership simply does not want to struggle with the issue. Matters are not solved, justice is not served and a false sense of reconciliation although goes on a peaceful stride for some time, will eventually break and go back to the same lane.

I believe the church leadership cannot simply seek instant measures of reconciliation; they have to struggle through the things at hand and do all possible to seek a worthy decision. Taking a route that calls for instant magic is simply a adulteration of their responsibility.

Where is God in all the decisions; justice?

Sometimes I wonder why God doesn't act swiftly at what he sees. Sometimes I wonder why he doesn't simply pry open the eyes of church leaders who seem blind to the things happening around them. The big question is why does God relent to act? I found the quote below challenging as well as helpful:

If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence - that God would not be worthy of worship … The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only when it comes from God … My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many … in the West … (But) it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence (results from the belief in) God's refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die … (with) other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.- Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

This has been a long post over a period of a short hiatus from blogging. These things are still fresh in my head as well as my heart. Do let me know what you think.


Mason said...

I think that Volf quote sums up very well how I think we should approach God's justice/judgment.

As far as forgivness goes, it's hard, incredibly hard sometimes, but it's necessary for your relationship with the other person, for your relationship with God, and for your own peace.
Too many have the idea that forgiving means acting like it didn't matter. I think it is better to see forgiving as saying "it did matter, deeply, and it wasn't ok, but I release you from my anger and let go of my right to retaliate and further the cycle".
Forgivness is not about ignoring a problem, but adressing it with love and grace and moving through it.

Kurt said...

Forgiveness is hard. Forgive my reductionism for a moment but allow me to make two observations about forgiveness that have been helpful for me in the past...

Forgiveness is a Choice We Make

Forgiveness is a Journey We Take

Forgiveness through reconciliation must be something taht we actually seek. We desire for reconcilation and to be free from the bondage that the conflict creates. Once we choose this, talking stuff out simply doesnt seem to suffice. I like what you talked about refering to how reconciliation is something that must be wrestled with in the community. If this is not the case, if we dont take the time to really sort out the deep issues invovled, the peace can often be superficial and quikly fading.

I encourage you to continue wrestling. You obviously believe that forgiveness is the answer, but are still on the journey to fully embrace it. Continue in faith my friend and God will honor your efforts!

Kacie said...

Good to see a theologian in SE Asia! I grew up in Indonesia, and noticed your comment on John Stackhouse's blog.

Tremonti said...

I agree with what you said here "Forgiveness is not about ignoring a problem, but addressing it with love and grace and moving through it." I think the majority will think that forgiveness is a matter of ignoring the pain or hurt cause by someone, and that sometimes rubs on me as well. I think the hardest rule here is addressing the hurt if in the case where we are face to face with our offender. At times reconciliation does not happen. And this is at time the dilemma in exerting forgiveness fully. At least this is my struggle.

Yes, forgiveness is our responsibility always to choose and go through. At this point though, what happens if reconciliation does not happen? Like what I said above responding to mason, it is hard to breath forgiveness if only one party is committed to reconciliation. Thinking through your comment and mason's, forgiveness, its full realization comes when both parties (offender and offended) seek to be reconciled. Thinking through I feel that the full extent of forgiveness to the point of reconciliation is the personal journey I'm going through.

Thanks for your comment. It is interesting to hear that you grew up in Indonesia.

Hopeful Theo

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I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations