“If we believe terrorists are past redemption, we should just rip up like 1/2 the NT because it was written by one.” –Shane Claiborne
A few weeks ago I heard a talk by Shane Claiborne. For those of you who don’t know, Shane is a peace activist who advocates for non-violence on a personal and societal level. He believes in, and promotes, forgiveness because he truly believes that, “Grace has the power to dull even the sharpest sword.”
Today I did a little experiment. I typed in “Boston Bombings” on Google, and to no surprise, all of the articles I found started by talking about the bombing suspects, and the investigation to find out who we can punish for this act. When an act of terror occurs, the media focuses all of its energy on who did the act and how those people will pay for what they’ve done. It emphasizes the type of justice that involves finding a punishment that will harm the person who did the crime as much as that person harmed others. It’s all about that person getting a fair penalty for their crime. Our justice system does not emphasize forgiveness, but rather emphasizes people paying for their mistakes.
There is a quote on a poster that I’ve seen in many places around campus. It says, “All religions believe in justice.” However, the type of justice this is referring to is not the type that we observe in our criminal justice system in the states. While our system is discriminatory and revolves around profits and punishment, the justice of faith traditions is about love and forgiveness.
Trying to get someone to see how they have hurt us or someone else, or trying to control how someone will act in the future, has nothing to do with forgiveness. The World English Dictionary defines “forgive” as to free from the obligation of. Forgiveness grants the person we are forgiving freedom. It grants them the freedom that they were born with that is a part of their human dignity. Forgiveness is not something that should be based off of what a person will do for us in the future or how they will change. Rather, forgiveness is a gift that should be given to everyone, and that everyone should receive as part of their dignity.
As Shane Claiborne says, “All of us are better than the worst thing we’ve done.” We are all human, and everyone makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are small, and some of those are much bigger. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter; because God forgives everyone, and in our journey to be more like him, we should strive to forgive everyone as well.
By forgiving people for the wrongs they have done, we are not excusing the pain they have caused. I wish that whoever bombed the Boston marathon, had never felt the need to do so. But I also know that people cause others pain and suffering when they are in pain or are suffering. Humans hurt other humans when they don’t feel loved, or when they are craving attention. What if when violent acts occurred, we reached out those who had committed the act? What if we told them that we forgive them, and embraced them unconditionally instead of shunning them and dehumanizing them? What if we loved them regardless of how much they hurt us? How would that person react? Do you think we’d be getting to the root of what caused the problem in the first place-namely that the person didn’t feel loved? I do. We should all strive to forgive those who wrong us. Because we are all human, we all make mistakes, we are all imperfect. And regardless of our faults, God loves us, and in doing so, he calls us to love one another.
So even though forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do, I believe we are called to try and forgive everyone regardless of what they have done. Every person deserves to be loved, every human being is inherently good, and everyone has the potential to find redemption. Yes forgiveness is hard, but, as Shane Claiborne says, ” Each time that we want to hate, we can always find the courage to love.”