Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seventy times seven

In Mathew 18:21-23, Peter asks Jesus how many times must he forgive someone who sins against him, the reply being, "Seventy times seven," depending on your version of the Bible.

Today, I received an email asking that we forgive those who trespassed against us 10 years ago. Being the contrarian that I am, I had to question this thought. Why must we forgive?

I'm not questioning the teachings of Christ but the application for this instance. At no time did He suggest that the restitution laws proscribed in the Old Testament were abandoned, nor is there any indication that earthly judgement was ignored.

As the email sender happened to be a spiritual leader of sorts, my first thought was that of a shepherd tending his flock. One night when he wasn't on a diligent watch, wolves crept in and stole several of the sheep. In retrospect, the shepherd forgave the wolves for they were hungry and needed to feed their young.

The following week, a few more sheep were taken by the wolves and the shepherd forgave them that night as well. A few nights later, more sheep were taken and the shepherd again forgave the wolves.

This went on for weeks and the numbers of the wolves grew. They were feeding very well on the shepherd's flock and their litters of wolf cubs were quite large. Other wolves in neighboring hills came down and joined the first pack. By now, more and more sheep were eaten until all were gone.

The shepherd, now without sheep, could not rightly be called a shepherd now that his flock was gone but he could rest because he had given the wolves all the forgiveness that he could. He had no hard feelings because they had a right to eat, didn't they?

This passage on forgiveness and "turn the other cheek" are used by peacenik apologists and I don't think they understand their meanings. If some dirtbag broke in your house, raped your spouse, and then shot your kids, you're supposed to just let it happen, turn the other cheek by offering up the neighbors and then forgive the guy?


Under Old Testament Jewish law, if a man did not protect his family, it was considered a sin. If a king did not prepare his country to repel invaders, judgment was upon him.

Our political leaders are delegated with the power to form our armed forces, who are sheep dogs among us. And God bless every one of them. The shepherds would be the politicians and when all they are interested in is fleecing the flock, there are plenty of wolves waiting to take advantage of that.

If I remember correctly, Jesus' indignation was towards the Pharisees, or the shepherds of the time, and not towards the sheep. I think our leadership will be judged and found wanting as they ignored the signs, we were not prepared, they've placed our armed forces in an impossible position, and in the end we, as a people, have paid with our freedoms.

All because our shepherds lacked the diligence to tend the flock.


Anonymous said...

Forgiveness has nothing to do with alleviating one from the consequences of their actions.

I can forgive the person who murdered another all I want. My forgiveness doesn't spare them from the lethal injections...nor should it.

I often like to say that forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. If I forgive someone who has trespassed against me, especially if they haven't sought such forgiveness, it doesn't mean anything to them. But it saves me from years of resentment, stress and anger. I don't need it.

My forgiving them doesn't mean I wont defend myself against them should they choose to trespass against me again in the future. It doesn't mean that I wouldn't pursue legal action against them in warranted. It doesn't mean that I'd ever trust them again or want them near me or mine. It only means that I'm releasing myself from the harmful feelings of resentment and anger, which will make me a healthier and happier person.

strandediniowa said...

Well said, Curt.

The email I received only mentioned forgiveness towards the perpetrators, nothing about repentance or judgement and nothing about concern for the victims.

Made me a little sick, actually.