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Bible for Thinkers

Liberals love the Bible, too. We just look at it differently. This is a place to discuss the Bible where you don't have to check your brain at the door. There are many ways to see it, and many ways to have it come to life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

quickie on forgiveness

Probably this won't be the last I write on forgiveness, but I've picked up some interesting things to ponder, again courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal's book, The Sunflower.

A good point is made in the book by a Buddhist writer, Matthieu Ricard. He writes, "To grant forgiveness to someone who has truly changed is not a way of condoning or forgetting his or her past crimes, but of acknowledging whom he or she has become."

I like that a lot. We often imagine that forgiveness is the same as saying "That's okay, it doesn't matter," which is not at all true. Forgiveness shifts the orientation from past action to future relationship...perhaps with the perpetrators, but more often with our memory.

Another writer in the book, Dennis Prager, is one of the many Jewish respondents to Mr. Wiesenthal's dilemma. He makes the claim that, aside from the divinity of Jesus, the greatest difference between Christians and Jews is in the approach to forgiveness. I need to probe this more.

Monday, August 22, 2005


When I fired up my laptop tonight, my CNN homepage had a picture of Pat Rudolph, the mother of Eric Rudolph, who was sentenced today for the 1996 bombings at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. The headline reads: Rudolph's mother: Son not a "monster." She goes on to say that "I don't see him as a monster. I don't think I could," and that she loves him even though she doesn't condone what he did.

Since earlier this evening I was responding to someone who was wondering about the line between grace and judgment, the first response I had to the headline was "That's how God views each of the unconditional love of a mother for her child. That's why we should talk more about God as a mother." That thought had no sooner past through the ticker than the next one came: "Maybe that's one of the reasons why we're so resistant to talking about God as a mother!"

Could it be that the grace of a mother's love is something that we don't really want let loose in our society? Perhaps we want to keep that notion safely tucked away on Mother's Day and other sentimental occasions but send it to the backwaters when judgment and condemnation more nicely suit our purposes. Dad the disciplinarian is the one we will let out for public view...the one who will be practical about it all and mete out the proper punishment. Mom gives her view after the trial is done.

But suppose God is like Mom. Suppose God says, "I don't see him as a monster; I don't think I could." That would make our lives so much more difficult--because if God couldn't see him as a monster, we wouldn't really be allowed to either. If God could say, "Father, forgive them," then maybe we would have to follow that example. Maybe our unwillingness to give up our right to vengeance is one of the reasons we resist a Mother God. She'll let the kids get away with murder.

Not that the issues are easy. Elie Wiesel once said tha anything we say about God has to be able to be said over a pit of burning babies. A mother's love for a child gone wrong is not cheap grace. I think we need to wrestle more with what that means. We need to wrestle with the issues of forgiveness and justice raised in books like The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal. We need to consider what it might mean if God had the heart of a mother.