Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Things That Suck (Post 3)

For those of you who continue to follow this nonsense: thanks.

The Way of God?

I still need some convincing from Irina and company: What makes you think that "forgiveness is the way of God"?

The Story of Shimei

First, this link to my dad's take on the situation. I suspect that he means to communicate some particular message through the use of this story, but that might not be the case: he might just be tossing it out.

However, for those of us who feel inclined to back David here, let's remember that Shimei is at least being accurate: David is a "man of blood", and in many ways a "scoundrel". As David says, "Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to."

The Letter from My Sis

(I think it's very well done.)

To the Elders of the Church of AH,

Greetings in the name of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I hope this letter finds you well.

I know that you have received numerous letters about your choice to ask my father for his resignation in January. This is mine. You would have received it earlier, but I didn’t want it to be considered castigating.

In fact, nothing is further from my mind. I have held you all very dear to my heart–we were family.

I have grown up with your children, learned from you in bible class, attended your family functions and gone to camp with you. I have known some of you since the first Sunday my Dad started preaching at AH, a few months before my first birthday. The rest of you I welcomed into the family with open arms.

So I’m sure you can imagine how devastated I was to hear about the way my father was treated. I admit that I cannot know all the details surrounding his “release,” but I do know one thing: regardless of whatever wrongs he committed and whatever faults he had, I believe he was treated unjustly, because he was treated as hired help and not family.

I believe this set a bad example to the flock (I Peter 5:3) and was not a good way to manage the church family (I TImothy 3:5).

It is my belief that you saw your church in danger, that you were–as the rest of us–watching it fall apart slowly, inch by inch. And so you made a rash decision, lunged out to save something you love. But instead, that decision, and especially the way you handled it, caused more problems and more pain than you anticipated. We all know it caused pain in the AH family at large, and I can tell you that it has caused unspeakable pain in my immediate family and especially in my own life.

My father, as you know, has handled this whole situation very stoically and has–true to form–spent his time trying to ease the pain of the congregation and help its people to move forward in the love of Christ. The rest of our family, however, is having a harder time.

Surely you can understand that I can’t imagine ever attending services at AH again. I believe doing so would have the appearance of my stamp of approval–would send the message that I agree with your decision and the way in which you enacted it. And I obviously do not. I am grieving the loss of my childhood church, the family I have known my whole life, at your hands.

I feel betrayed by you, the men of my own beloved church family, at the treatment of my father, who deserved better if for no other reason than the fact that he had served the Lord and His people at AH for 22 years. But he has also cared for your own families in times of grief, pain and loss as well as those of celebration. And he has done no less for the other members of our AH family, who have expressed their own grief and outrage at the events that transpired in January.

And so, Elders of AH, I write to ask you for an apology. I ask you to apologize to my family at AH as well as my immediate family for how you handled the firing of my father. I am confused as to why it has taken this long, but let’s face it: AH is still in trouble, turmoil and pain. I believe that nothing else but your humility and the love of God will heal the body of AH.

But I want you to know that regardless of what you decide, you have my forgiveness anyway.

So please, for the sake of the people who we all hold dear, consider my request prayerfully.

In Christ,
(the sis)


emilyjane said...

I would turn the questions around, Matt, and ask: Why shouldn't you forgive? Why should you stay angry? What would you hope to accomplish by that? What feelings, if any, are beneath the anger? How are you dealing with those emotions?

What makes me think that forgiveness is the way of God is this line from the Lord's prayer: "And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

I am in awe of people who can forgive thoroughly and completely. A few years ago I saw a show about two couples who had lost a child to murder. The one couple hated the murderer--all the way up to and including his execution, which they attended. The other couple slowly began to develop a relationship with the murderer. First, they wrote to him, then they began visiting him. In the end they not only forgave the murderer but came to love him and were instrumental in changing his life (much like the Pope who forgave the man who shot him).

What especially struck me at the end of the program was the difference between the two couples. The nonforgivers were very sickly, could barely walk and were filled with hatred even after the murderer had been killed. The forgivers were filled with joy and peace and were an inspiration to many, including myself.

Now in the case of the forgiven murderer, he admitted his wrong doing and asked for forgiveness. It is always more difficult to forgive someone who won't admit to a fault and doesn't repent. (I believe we are asked to forgive these people as well but that doesn't mean we have to allow ourselves to be hurt by them again.)

I'm still learning how to forgive, but two things help me when forgiveness is required. First, I remember something Jack Kornfield wrote in "A Path with Heart." He said the first step toward forgiveness is the desire to forgive. He suggests saying, "I am willing to forgive." Or even, "I am willing to want to forgive." I usually can't get to this point until after I have felt and expressed my feelings. Sometimes I do this by writing in my journal and talking to friends. If the circumstances permit (which they often do not), I speak to the person who has hurt me directly. When direct communication is not possible or wise, I talk to their souls (usually by writing letters in my journal which I will never send).

I haven't needed to use this last option yet, but I keep in my heart in case the unforgivable happens to me. In one of her books, Catherine Marshall tells the story of Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. After the war (during which she had been imprisoned and her sister had been killed), Corrie went around Germany giving talks on God's forgiveness and loving your enemies. At the end of one of her lectures, a former Nazi officer, who had been one of her captors in the concentration camp, came up to her. He said mockingly, "Oh, fraulein, it is so good to know all has been forgiven."

At the moment, Corrie realized she could not forgive the man, but she knew God could, so she prayed: "Lord, I can't do this. Give me Your forgiveness."

Suddenly, she felt an overwhelming sense of peace and love fill her heart. With that Corrie stuck out her hand and genuinely greeted the man who had once imprisoned and raped her.

Matthew said...

Good comments, Emilyjane.

Why should you stay angry?

In this situation - where the harm done to me isn't so great - I suspect that it's not really a question of "staying angry". I was much angrier six months ago than I am now, and I expect my anger to continue to diminish over time. But most of my commenters seem to suggest that forgiveness is something more active than allowing your anger to subside. It's this "more active" part that I want people to explain, and that I'm questioning the value of.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

A good point. But this sounds to me like forgiveness is the way of people, and the Lord's Prayer is begging God to be forgiving in the same way that we are forgiving.

Corrie realized she could not forgive the man, but she knew God could

See, I'm not sure this is correct. God can forgive wrongs insofar as they are done against God, but can God really forgive wrongs done by a person to another person? It seems to me that God helped Corrie forgive the man, but God did not forgive the man for her.

irina said...

Dear Matthew...
there is no harm in this world that can´t be forgiven by God, if repentence should be sincere...
Forgiveness is the way of God as he taught us that we shouldn´t forgive once, not twice, not seven times, but everytime someone asks our forgiveness sincerely. Jesus is not asking God to forgive us in the way we forgive, Jesus IS God! He is just teaching us to pray and to see that we will be judged by the same measure we judge our fellows... I remember having read in the Bible that Jesus said something like :"the judgement is Mine, My judgement is right, for I do not do My own will but the one of my Father"...

This is a delicate matter, your sis made me realize what consequences this has on your family... There seems to be a problem, the elders aren´t asking for forgiveness. So how can you forgive them? That´s a tough one.

I think rebukeness, if that be the case, should be done out of love for the ones you wish to correct. First you have to forgive and then, by loving them you will want to help them grow.

Look, I don´t know if I make any sense. Why don´t you try both and see the traces both ways leave in your heart? That way you will know...

Paul said...

Matthew, I've been thinking about this subject quite a bit myself lately - and the more I think, the more complicated it looks!

As just one example, Irina talks about forgiving those who repent. In my experience, the couple of times in my life someone wronged me but then sincerely apologized, then altered their behavior - my feelings changed in an instant! Was that really an "act of forgiveness?" I just couldn't be angry at them anymore. They had changed.

For sure your sister writes great letters. She says absolutely nothing by way of insult, points to the wrongdoing, and invites them to apologize! Maybe forgiveness = really putting somebody on the spot!