At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Forgiveness: Wishing Your Enemy Well

Sometime back I posted about an individual who had wronged me professionally in a church situation some time back. This person had recently been convicted in court of sexual abuse charges and is now going to prison for the rest of my life. While the sexual abuse wasn't against me, I was thankful that justice was done given the thorough conviction of guilt. I had moved on from the church shenanigans and since I'm serving elsewhere, I had what I believed to be detached observer's view and one that merely had commented that this was God's way of breaking the teeth of the wicked (Psalm 3:7). And that was it.

In truth, I knew that wasn't it. There was something wrong with the way I had written the post and I knew it. Why--when I believed to have put all this professional pain and anger behind me--did I feel like I was carrying something around that, while not painful, was still like an extra annoying weight that I didn't need to transport.

I started to think maybe I should re-think things.

That's when a wise friend and former colleague emailed me, telling me he had read my post and sincerely felt my pain. But he urged me to consider the following:

Ask the Lord if you have forgiven this guy and love your enemy.

Ask the Lord if He would have finished the post the way it was finished.

Yeah, the Holy Spirit was speaking through my friend.

Whatever this guy from North Carolina had done to me and others was in the past and I needed to act like it. But there was more. My friend had asked me if I could love my enemy...of course, Jesus said we'd have enemies (see the Sermon on the Mount)...but one of the criteria of love (however the intensity or shape of it) is willingness to forgive.

Forgiveness is entirely in my court, in other words.

It means to be willing to not let the wrong done to control me. It means saying that whatever was done, God saw it, God has covered it by his justice and not mine, and that's that. 

But it goes deeper than that. It means first of all dropping the weight of resentment--whether it be a handbag or a suitcase full of dumbbells--and refusing to carry it around for one minute longer. It makes no sense to live life holding on to the anger and resentment. You know those rolling walkways in airports where people can just stop walking and glide from spot to spot? I've noticed so many times that people refuse to take a break when gliding on the ground, and they hold on to their luggage and refuse to lay it down.

I always have thought that was odd, until I realized through my friend's words that I was doing the exact same thing.

Resentment is a choice. Willfully carrying around this kind of smoldering flame is done on purpose. And so is refusing to do likewise.

I have come to realize that this man in prison doesn't need my resentment and anger. It won't set him free.

And it won't set me free. And I need to be free as well and not allow this to control me.

But the final piece of the puzzle came from remembering something Rob Bell said. Yes, my traditionally theologically conservative friends will point out problems with quoting Rob Bell, and of course, there's areas where Rob and I would disagree. But that's immaterial here, because one thing Rob has said on forgiveness is a gold mine. It's within his NOOMA video called "Luggage" that he says that part of forgiving someone else means "I have to wish that person well."

Talk about a sucker punch to the spiritual groin area.

A sucker punch I needed, to be honest.

And I'll admit that, hard as it is, I need to wish this person, wrongdoer that he may have been a long time ago, well.

I should want the best for this person.

I need to be able to ask God to redeem what is left ahead for this man. I need to plead with God that He would show this man his continuing need of him, to be forthright and transparent, and to be cleansed anew every day.

And that's when I realized that even though my sins are different, they deserve God's displeasure just as much as this man in a North Carolina prison.

So I want to wish this person well. I don't have the foggiest idea what that means. But God does. And I can let God be God rather than trying to worm my way into that role and make a mess of it.

And in the end, wishing your enemy well is a good place to be. It's definitely a lot less tiring.

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