The price of peace is paid in the currency of forgiveness.

Brother Christian de Cherge sought to instill in his brothers the quality of

Forgiveness – “We must dig into ourselves to follow the path of forgiveness… to rid ourselves of the tendency to want to choose one side or the other, to give a prize for good and evil – yes, we monks have this instinct, too. So we called the terrorists the ‘brothers of the mountain’ and the army ‘the brothers of the plain.’ The terms are useful for talking on the phone, but it was also a way of maintaining an open, fraternal spirit toward all sides. (Kiser, John W. The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria. NY: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002, pp.218-220)

But I do not want to forgive. It is not fair. I have been wronged. I have been hurt. They should not be allowed to treat me that way. They should not get away with it. It’s not right. I deserve to be treated better than this. I want to get even.  Justice must be done.

To my shame, the call to forgive reveals the pettiness and violence of the person I so often am. I cling to my “rights” and refuse to see the dark side of my own nature in its ugly and violent reality.

Of course societies must have a rule of law that seeks to protect their citizens from grievous harm. But we are operating under a grievous illusion if we fool ourselves into thinking that when we exercise our responsibility to do all that we can to protect our citizens we are in fact dispensing “justice.” “Justice” is beyond the human capacity.

The call for justice assumes that violent behaviour is merely a matter of choice.

True justice would require taking into consideration and balancing every factor that has caused a person to act in a certain way. In order to truly administer justice, we would need to be able to understand all the environmental, social, biological, familial, circumstantial, as well as the volitional factors that have contributed to making a person into the person they have become. Such knowledge is beyond the human capacity. So, any attempt to hand out justice will always be inadequate and partial.

Our desire for justice is rooted in the illusion that we can create a safe society. Sadly, the world will never be safe as long as it is inhabited by broken, confused, conflicted, complex human beings. We will always hurt one another, let one another down. That is what we do, all of us, to greater and lesser degrees.

The apostle Paul was not engaging in idle rhetoric when he wrote,

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

The one thing that unites all human beings is that we  all in some way and to some degree betray the highest ideals we hold as members of the human community.

Someone must break the cycle violence. Retribution, vengeance, getting-even, only perpetuate the endless litany of pain that afflicts the world when no one is willing to step aside for a moment from the quid pro quo operating system that attempts to balance human actions by balancing the scales of “justice.”

Jesus swept aside the whole idea of quid pro quo justice saying,

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. (Matthew 5:38,39)

To forgive is not to deny wrong may have been done. Forgiveness does not turn a blind eye to the pain caused by human actions and attitudes. But, forgiveness refuses to be defined by the wrongs I have done or the wrongs that have been done to me.

When I forgive, I assert the truest freedom and greatest dignity of what it means to be human. To forgive is to affirm a deeper reality than the grievous brokenness that afflicts so much of the surface of the human condition. Forgiveness is the power that collapses the deadly dualism that divides the world into “good” and “evil” in which I seek to locate myself on the “good” side and those who hurt me on the “evil” side. Forgiveness is the only way out of the destructive blaming that holds the world in such a stalemate of violence.

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