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Lepers Need Forgiveness Too

July 8, 2013

Why forgive; why let someone off the hook (as I’ve heard it described) when you have been wronged? It goes against what seems a rational ‘holding others responsible for their actions’ idea that permeates our world and there is nothing wrong with that on the surface. What can make such attitudes toxic is when we go from asking for just punishment and move on to never-ending vengeance, demanding that the person who has hurt us be hurt themselves over and over without end, AMEN!
Years ago I heard it put this way (I believe it was Chuck Swindoll on Insight for Living); “Bitterness is when you drink poison expecting someone else to die.” Think of that, someone hurts you and the hatred and resentment that you feel toward that person so pollutes your soul that if can affect your health, both physical and psychological. It’s as if you are allowing that person who did hurt you to continue to do so for years to come. Why do we do that? Why drag our yesterdays into today; why do we linger over past wrongs as individuals and societies?
I’m reminded of the Gospel narrative in John when the religious leaders dragged a woman into Jesus’ presence while He was teaching in the temple, telling Him that they’d caught her in the “…very act…” of adultery (where then was the man?); demanding of Him that He judge her according to the Mosaic Law. Jesus bent down and wrote in the sand something (we are not told what though countless writers have given their opinions), then stood and faced the woman’s accusers and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” As Jesus then stooped down and again began scribbling in the sand, the once-angry, self-righteous mob lost their fervor for judgment and left the woman alone with Jesus.
Over and over I have read of or experienced this attitude in those who will never forgive; they demand “justice,” which in their minds equates to never ending punishment (sounds like how Scripture describes Gehenna doesn’t it?). It’s as if society (not just North Carolina) is saying that once convicted of a crime, no matter how much the person may change or how long it has been since the crime was committed, that person is forever branded a pariah, a modern day leper who must live on the periphery and denied of meaningful work. This is insane! Think of the furor perpetuated by the media when they “uncovered” how St. Augustine University hired two ex-felons and how that media attention pushed the administration of St. Augustine’s to change the positions held by them.
This demand for the ostracism of those once convicted from society has one end; eventually North Carolina will need to select one county and surround that county with fences and razor wire and remove all the “law abiding citizens” from it. Then, when someone is convicted of a crime, they will be tossed into that Prison County to remain for the remainder of their lives. Is that what we want for our state or our nation? Keeping ex-felons on the periphery, not allowing us to have real jobs and not letting us even find a place to stay is the one sure way of enhancing the recidivism rate. Then, when that happens the self-perpetuating prophecy comes to pass and the ex-felon commits another crime and the self-righteous crowd screams their “I told you so!”
Where does it end?

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