“There is No Future Without Forgiveness”

I have a couple of friends who do not believe in Hell. One claims she would mete out justice by taking those who have committed heinous crimes and throw them to the deepest part of the ocean – there they would languish under hot sun, salty water, sharks, storms and more. Death would come but not without fear and fight. When asked about forgiveness, reconciliation or restoration the answer is simple and forceful: there are some things that can never be forgiven, never be restored.

She is not alone – indeed we all have our views of what justice should look like. In the recent Aurora shootings the alleged killer was put in solitary confinement in a jail; he was not safe with the other prisoners who, though breakers of the law themselves, found this to be a heinous crime — one they would have punished.

In recent years International Criminal Tribunals have risen in response to atrocities committed around the world. There is wide support for these tribunals; Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others keep a global eye on tribunals that are held, ensuring that there is justice.

But Daniel Philpott in an excellent article in First Things poses the argument that these tribunals are focused primarily on punishment and neglect reconciliation. One could ask “Does true healing ever take place without reconciliation?” 

And can reconciliation ever take place without forgiveness?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission says emphatically to his fellow country men “There is no future without forgiveness”. 

We are in a world that cries out in pain – a world that desperately needs to have forgiveness and reconciliation modeled. At its core the Christian message is a drama of reconciliation acted out on the world stage through the cross.

Is it a drama we can reproduce, replay, and reenact through our own willingness to forgive – or is it a one time Oscar-winning performance? It’s a question I have to ask myself every day. 

Abigail’s Bread

Breads and bread rolls at a bakery

I knew there had been offense. I had said things. I had done things. And I was sorry. I was so sorry – for the hurt, for my mouth running away without consulting my brain, for my meanness, born out of my pain. The person had done nothing to warrant my rage. They just happened to be the one present when I lost it.

“Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is wrong in your sight” The words of Psalm 51 echoed in my head. “Against against against you you you only only only” – as though I was yelling across a mountain, the valley between. The realization echoed as well – I had sinned against God – and I had also wronged another.

I needed Abigail’s bread.

The story of Abigail’s bread is from the Old Testament. Abigail was first the wife of Nabal, a mean and surly man we are told.  She was intelligent and beautiful and when she saw there had been an offense toward a group of men, she acted. She prepared bread, wine, sheep, grain, figs, raisins – a regular feast, and she set off to make it right. She didn’t know how she would be received but compelled to go, she went in faith.

So I baked bread and set off. Nervous, stomach aching, heart pounding, not sure how I would be received. But there had been offense and I needed to make it right. I didn’t have the wine or the sheep, the figs or the raisins, but I had bread.

And God graciously softened the heart of the offended and the bread was accepted.

This story in the Old Testament is amazing. It is a story of a strong woman, a smart woman, and a woman who loved God. She would not be paralyzed by offense; she would act.

I have witnessed much offense in the last few days. Not in person but over the internet and I wish that I could intervene. Through the medium of comments, people’s mouths have not been connected to their brains and there is hurt. I desperately want to bake bread and intervene.

And so this blog post – this is my offering; my “Abigail’s Bread”. In life there is a lot of offense. I offend, and I am offended. But knowing there is bread, both Abigail’s and the body of the One who died for offense is hope indeed. Today may you both give and taste Abigail’s bread; bread that offers pardon and hope.

18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal…..23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say……27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption…..32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.”….35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.” (excerpts from 1 Samuel 25 New International Version)