“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.