What does forgiveness look like?

Over a year ago, now, I lost a friend in a tragedy. I’ve had other losses in life, but this one has been particularly difficult in that it was a result of murder. Regardless of the intent, malice, or premeditation aspects, my friend was suddenly gone, and her family and friends have been grappling to understand if and why her husband, the prime suspect, killed her. After over a year of speculation, internal debates, court dates, and plenty more stuff that I wasn’t directly involved with, her husband was sentenced to 40 years in prison on August 3rd. Her husband also asked for forgiveness from her family and for the first time publicly, seemed to feel some remorse.

There are obviously many differing opinions on the outcome of the court proceedings. The news reported that Sarah’s family was satisfied with the sentencing. Some say that 40 years is adequate, while others wish he would have gotten the death penalty. Like any legal matter, there is debate within the community that centers around the tragedy but ultimately, the issues come down to what different people believe – in this case, what people believe about justice, fairness, right and wrong.

Though some might beg to differ, I think it’s easy to look around and see the evil nature of sin that resides in humans, especially in cases of murder. In American postmodern culture, violent murder is not commonplace and therefore is disturbing even to those who have no belief in or understanding of God. It makes sense to me that anyone and everyone would rely on our judicial system to take care of murderers and those who willfully commit acts of violence against others. In the Old Testament of the Bible, God even gave the Jews laws in order to carry out justice among the people.

Like I said, I understand that people want to see justice. But what is important as a believer in Christ Jesus is realizing that God also says in His Word, over and over, again, that justice is HIS.

Just as sin has entered the world and corrupted so many aspects of our human nature – sex, money, power, etc., it can also corrupt justice imparted through humans. I’m not saying that it always does. But just like any issue, we have to look at the root of it and realize what is actually going on. Satan wants to destroy us, and as Donald Miller says in his book Searching for God Knows What, “I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time.” Is it really worth our time to be frustrated, anxious and vocal about what our justice system is doing, instead of realizing we already know that justice will prevail when the Lord has the final say in the matter?

In terms of understanding and relating to my friend’s husband, the Bible is very clear: we are to love like Jesus loved, which can be very difficult to do. In this case, the difficulty is seeing someone for who he really is and choosing love. This man – husband of my mentor, friend, and a soon-to-be-mother – has been exposed as a liar, murderer, and deceiver. The Bible says that there are two options:

1. If the person has been approached and shown his fault by you, other witnesses, and his/her church and does not listen/repent, treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector (i.e., someone who does not know the Lord and is not saved – Matt. 18:15-19). This means that you still show them love and show them by example and testimony that Jesus is God and desires them for His own.
2. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

All that it takes for forgiveness to happen, for community to happen, and for us to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in is to admit that we need help.

And it’s really not that complicated… but all that forgiveness looks like is Jesus.

We have been forgiven, so we go forth and forgive others.
We have been loved, so we go forth and love others.

On the news, I saw my friend’s husband confess and ask forgiveness from her family. After nearly a year and a half of him not admitting anything, and finally seeing his tears and hearing him confess what he had done and ask for forgiveness, I at first was surprised by the outflow of love that I felt for him. It really makes sense though. It reminds me of myself. I also have been broken many times, needing God and confessing that I’m in need of Him. The great news is that Silas is forgiven by the Lord already, and God has the outpouring of love that I experienced times infinity.

I’ll be praying for Silas. I pray that God will free him from the chains that sin has put on Him, and that even in prison God will make Him a light to shine on others… what a beautiful, amazing thing that would be. But I don’t have to pray for forgiveness. God’s already put that in my heart, and I’m holding onto it like a line thrown out to someone drowning. It just makes sense to me now.

For your interest:

I made up a random poll… sort of due to my lack of posting, which I plan to remedy soon! Thanks for checking in with me and please humor me by participating in the poll. 🙂 I know that there are more people reading than I’m aware of, because the blog gets checked almost every day and it’s certainly not me doing it!

Thanks.

Much love,
Elise