In the April 28 edition, Rabbi Gellman wrote an advice piece on the religion page stating there is no need to forgive the Boston bomber since he had not repented.
I would like to suggest this is just the problem, the misperception that forgiveness is something withheld until it is deserved. That feeds the cycle of revenge, bitterness and tit-for-tat escalations that keep our prisons and foster homes full.
Forgiveness ought not to be withheld until it is sought, simply because forgiveness primarily benefits the offended, rather than the offender.
“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”.
Rabbi Gellman stated: “I don’t feel one shred of compassion for that murderer and maimer of children and adults. ... I don’t hear God calling me to forgive a young man who had other bombs ready to kill other 8-year-old boys.”
What the Rabbi is missing is that unforgiveness empowers the offenders to perpetuate their terrorism indefinitely. To diffuse our own bombs of bitterness and hatred is the only way to diffuse those “other bombs ready to kill other 8-year-old boys”.
Everyone feels like the other party ought to take the initiative in peace and reconciliation. But until someone grows big enough to voluntarily forgo the perceived “right to hate”, the tit-for-tat violence will continue to escalate.
And more bombs will be detonated.
Unconditional forgiveness doesn’t ignore justice, it simply recognizes that final justice will be meted out by an infallible Judge, and it loves the offender as a tragically misguided human in more desperate need of help than hate. My duty is to stop the cycle of violence and hatred by “overcoming evil with good”. (Romans 12:14, 17-21)
Unforgiveness and bitterness are not good.
Unconditional forgiveness appears weak, but is not. It is unimaginably powerful. It is the paradox by which the bombs of evil and hatred are permanently diffused. The power of forgiveness in overcoming evil is limited only to the extent to which the power of an Almighty God is limited. (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)
In the absence of forgiveness, offender and offended are only opposing faces of hate, each as guilty as the other, for in the eyes of God, there is precious little difference between hatred and terrorism. (1 John 3:15)
Jesus taught us to love our enemies. (Mathew 5:38-48) I wonder what would happen to terrorism if we followed his advice?