2002-05-17 - Forgiveness Revisited
Leviticus 19:17,18 You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
Today I am in for Jan who is on vacation. Oh, to have such a life. Anyway, I consider this a free day in which I may do as I please since it is really Jan's day. I was going to hit on the conjoined nature of the limiting notion of the unknown and unknowable in the thought of Emmanuel Kant and how it relates to the dogmatic constitution of Divine Revelation, but I have had a change of heart. My change of heart stems from the kind notes I received from some of you in regard to the Wednesday devotional on forgiveness. You are very gracious and it is an encouragement to me to press on. However, a few notes asked a penetrating question that I need to work through regarding forgiveness and America's war on terrorism, specifically, as your questions related, in Afghanistan. This is a hard call, but I am going to seek to give a Biblical perspective and may fail horribly in the process.
My first inclination is to say I support my nation, but then again my nation both upholds and supports the killing of unborn babies (A new can of worms), and I don't support that. So that is no response worth a grain of salt. I don't always support my nation. I think there are two reasons to forgive those who would do us ill, and yet still be proactive in trying to protect ourselves. I know many of you will not like this, and I must say that it is a fine line and I am sure America has crossed it many times. I like our current President and think he seems honest and decent, but I don't trust our government as far as I can pick up and throw the Pentagon.
My first reason for defending the war on terrorism is because of the verse we stated with. We may reprove our neighbor. That's the English translation, and frankly, I have to be honest, the Hebrew word there really means that we can "reason" with our neighbor. (This devo is kind of train of thought and I just got schooled as I looked up my Hebrew, Oh well--nevermind.) However, we do see God blessing the defense of a city in 2 Kings 19:34, 35. The determination there was to defend the city and God blessed this determination by knocking out what might be called the perpetrators or those who would do it harm. If you are a student of the Old Testament, you know that sometimes it seems so harsh. Israel is told to attack a city, kill everyone, kill all the cattle, and it just seems so extreme. This is not what I think America is doing in Afghanistan. I at least hope that is the case. America, I hope, is looking to stop another 9/11 and if so, it is simply doing its job as a government.
My second thought is that we have a right to defend our boarders. You may not be like me, but anyone found in my house is likely to be Found in my house. Forgiveness does not mean that I give up all my rights. If someone is in my home I need not say, "Sorry to disturb you, help yourself." I either high tail it out of there or defend myself, family and rights. Forgiveness may and should come later, but there is a time to be wise also. In every situation we consider, "What is the best choice?" There are many factors involved but we don't take forgiveness to the level of sitting on the couch and saying over and over again, "I forgive you, I forgive you," as they ransack the house and family. It is the same with our nations. No nation, this is not just an American thing, has to sit back and say, "Hit us hard, we will forgive you."
Remember, in 1 John 1:9, forgiveness is granted after repentance of the offending party. That is a good example for us to consider in the war on terror. There has been no repentance, but rather the promise of more horrible acts against America. This is why I support what we are doing in Afghanistan. I could be wrong. When I was in college I was a total pacifist and would have deplored our response. I would have said, "Turn the other cheek," and thus I respect those who feel that way now.
And maybe this is all I am saying today. As Christians we need to study God's Holy Word, seek the wisdom of those we respect, come to our conclusions, and then respect those who come to other conclusions. A gracious spirit is hard to come by, but as Christians, we need to work on it. Think of how gracious Christ has been to us when we deserved it not. I know I have not solved the issue, but no matter, the real issue is Christ and how He has granted us favor, forgiveness, and mercy that we did not merit in ourselves.
Soli Deo Gloria,