Wednesday, November 12, 2008

forgiveness as policy

"No economy can survive without Chapter Eleven; no prison system is viable without parole. No moral culture works without making scapegoats and celebrating rituals of exculpation. Social scientists call it conflict management. Yet forgiveness remains costly, since the first reflex of the self-righteous is to fear that to forgive would be to cheapen sin. Four years ago (in the mid-90's) one presidential candidate suggested that the country should become kinder and gentler; yet neither party which wants to rule us is making the case for forgiveness as policy." - John Howard Yoder

Recently I was a part of forgiveness. Our church incurred some damage at the hands of a local teenager. We were faced with the choice of how to respond. Most members of our church don't even know it happened, and even more do not know how we handled it. But I think I'm proud of us. We offered forgiveness first. We then offered to pay the fine's the boy was charged with, providing he and a parent would sit down and meet with us. They agreed.

The meeting was short. We shared some snacks/drinks, gave a tour of our church and its' ministries, got to know the boy and his family a bit, and ended in prayer together.

Maybe they'll join us. Probably not. Maybe the boy will turn his life around immediately, and experience a crazy awesome transformation of some sort. Probably not. But you gotta think, that moment of forgiveness has to have impacted his world on some level. We pray it did/does. But at the same time, forgiveness was offered out of love, not out of a desire to change him for life.

We forgive, and pray that forgiveness will transform the world around us. But we do not forgive "because" it guarantees anything. We forgive because it is the nature of the Kingdom. The nature of God.

Should we have offered to pay the fines, even if they would not agree to have met with us? Maybe. I'm not sure. But I think we have opened a new door of responding to offenses for our community...at least on a small level.

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