Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Forgive Your Enemies

[One of the most unpopular of the Christian virtues] is laid down in the Christian rule, 'Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.' Because in Christian morals 'thy neighbour' includes 'thy enemy', and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving our enemies.

Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. 'That sort of talk makes them sick,' they say. And half of you already want to ask me, 'I wonder how you'd feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?'

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do--I can do precious little--I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.' There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952)

5 Comment(s):

At Tue Jul 26, 01:14:00 PM EST, Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you so much for this blog.

At Tue Jul 26, 03:46:00 PM EST, Blogger Roger Parkinson said...

I find forgiveness tricky when it comes to money (ie someone owes me). There is a specific parable in the Gospels describing this situation and, oh boy, is it hard to follow!

On a less personal note I notice that we like to lock people up (we don't execute people where I live). The reason seems to be 'punishment' which is hard to understand. I don't mean deterence, I don't mean keeping the rest of us safe from these people, just plain 'punishment'. Maybe forgiveness is a better approach.

At Tue Jul 26, 08:16:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Hi lisa. So nice of you to visit!

MrKimi: I think I feel like Lewis here, I know I need to forgive, but would I be able to forgive the really terrible things, were it asked of me personally? I have no idea how I'd do if it came down to it.

Sometimes criminals get sentenced in the U.S. to jail, even though the victims' family asks that the offender be freed. The family has forgiven the offender, but society still exacts a penalty.

At Wed Jul 27, 12:01:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob said...

Repentance also figures largely as a necessary pre-condition for forgiveness, but even if one forgives someone who does not repent, I do not think that we should try to forgive those who have not trespassed against us but against someone else. How can I forgive someone who has sinned against God, or even against you? I cannot; indeed to presume to do so is blasphemous. This is why the Pharisees were so scandalised when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralysed man. Forgiving sins against others is the province of God alone. (Matthew 9, Mark 2, Luke 5)

Christians are also charged to act justly, and simply absolving criminals with no thought to recidivism is not just to the next victim.

At Wed Jul 27, 12:36:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob said...

And I forgot to say that I think this is a great post today, Arevanye! Thanks.


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