The anniversary of 9-11 is the appropriate time to discuss the true meaning of forgiveness. Warning: My source of truth is not Allah, Justin Bieber or Barack Obama. My source of truth is Jesus Christ and his word in the Bible. Atheist friends please keep reading, because it is written in Romans that the truth is written in our hearts—there is a natural law. Where Allah, Obama, or Bieber get it so wrong so often logic and the playing out of history finds them out. Consider the atheist savant Confucius who said:
Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:39 not to resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. It brings to mind the story of the boxer turned preacher who was attacked one day, cold cocked by a mugger. He stood up and did nothing. The mugger hit him again, at which point the preacher said “I have turned the other cheek, but I have no further instructions!” He proceeded to dispense with the mugger. Although a humorous story, this highlights our world’s confusion about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat. It means not taking revenge, not returning evil for evil. It means the law of an “eye for an eye” is a journey where one digs two graves. The preacher could have run. He could have pulled his glock and placed the man under citizen’s arrest. Self-defense isn’t revenge.
Jesus also said we should forgive our brother not just seven times, but seventy times seven. We should always forgive. It is an unburdening of self. It is a submission to God of any thoughts of “getting even,” retribution or repayment. “I will repay, says the Lord.”
I forgive the Muslims I watched on television in Palestine dancing, singing, and cheering at the sight of the towers falling on September 11, 2001. I will not be self-seeking in that I will not seek to get even. Although it would be relatively easy and cost effective for our nation to reign down nuclear hell on them with the push of a button, to turn the desert into a big sheet of glass with their bones encased in it like a fly in amber; I have been sinful enough to fantasize about but would never advocate revenge killing of innocents to repay for their killing of innocents.
Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. Perhaps the confusion arises because forgiving a debt is almost exactly like forgetting the debt. There are sometimes where they are similar linguistically, but they are entirely different. Let me give you an example. Suppose a relative borrowed $ 10,000 from you. They told you they couldn’t pay. They go bankrupt. You forgive the debt. They ask to borrow another $ 10,000. Do you forget they wouldn’t pay back the original money and loan it to them again? Are you unforgiving or harboring a grudge if you do? Suppose a man sexually molests your young daughter. Do you forgive him? Yes. The Lord commands it. Suppose he wants to babysit your daughter again— over your dead body, am I right?
Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. It has nothing to do with justice. If the child molester were in prison and on death row, I would still forgive him. I would visit him in prison, share the Gospel with him. I would also gladly volunteer to throw the switch on the electric chair that ends him. That is not revenge, that is Justice. That is 1 Corinthians 13 Love- “Love always protects.”
If forgiveness was forgetting, Jesus died on the cross for nothing. He could have just forgotten our sin, but he would then not have been just. Instead he died a substitutionary death in our place, so we could be forgiven.
If we had revenge in mind in Operation Iraqi Freedom, we are the stupidest bunch of keystone cops that ever walked the earth. Revenge would have carpet bombed. Revenge would have had no trouble keeping the peace because every man under 30 would be dead or maimed. We have the resources to do that, and could have used rules of engagement to do that with fewer casualties and lower costs for ourselves. We didn’t. We were aiming to be liberators. We wanted to remove the threat.
Our village idiot president never understood. His rhetoric made it sound like we just wanted to be mean to Muslims, to take revenge, a philosophy rooted in reverse racism community organizing. He was going to hit the reset button. It looks like instead of hitting the reset button he hit the rewind button, and we are going to have to take Iraq all over again.
Never, ever forget 9-11. Forgive, but never forget.