Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Quote of the Day (38)

Moira Greyland on being raised by sexually abusive parents:

“I understand why it feels so hollow to forgive: I have no problem at all with never even getting mad at what they did to me. My response is frozen in time. I cannot even begin to forgive them for what they did to other people, which is why I was able to take action against them when a child was in danger.”

Walter Breen, Greyland’s father, died in a California prison at the age of 64. He was there because of his daughter’s testimony.

Hollow Forgiveness

Greyland describes granting forgiveness as a “hollow” experience, but her take on it strikes me as essentially correct. On its own, forgiveness — even eager forgiveness — doesn’t guarantee a happy ending.

If you have a compassionate heart, you may choose to “let go” of things that have been done to you. If they are traumatic enough, your mind may appear to erase them entirely. And if memories persist, you can still overlook sin for a time, perhaps, much as God has done:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked …
But sin cannot be overlooked forever:
“… but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness.”
All sin WILL be judged one way or another. Repentance and forgiveness are the mechanism by which sin can be dealt with preemptively in this life rather than the next. But the two things go together. Unrepented sin can be passed over temporarily; it cannot ever be effectively or completely forgiven.

Neither Requested Nor Accepted

Moreover, we are free to forgive sins that have been committed against ourselves. We are not at all free to forgive sins that have been committed against others:
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”
Thus we should not be surprised if forgiveness feels hollow when it has neither been requested nor accepted. That was Moira Greyland’s experience.

Greyland’s account of the horrors of her upbringing is a harrowing read with an unexpectedly happy ending: she came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Having experienced forgiveness herself, she was more than willing to extend it. Sadly, both her parents died without receiving it.

Forgiveness may be granted unilaterally, but without the acknowledgement of guilt and the change of life that comes from a repentant heart, it is ultimately hollow: it cannot possibly deliver the full and joyful restoration of relationship for which it was designed.

As Greyland puts it, “My response is frozen in time.”

1 comment :

  1. It's good for us to remember, isn't it, Tom, that the real goal of divine forgiveness is relationship. That makes it very different from mere "dismissal of a fault," or a unilateral "moving on and not holding a grudge." In Biblical forgiveness -- as with God's forgiveness of us -- the real goal is that we should not be left as we are, but rather transformed so as to be capable of an enduring relationship of mutuality.

    Relationship is the goal.

    But you cannot enter into a relationship with a person devoted to his own wickedness or indifferent to the evil he or she does. If you tried, you'd only get half the job done; and likely, you'd just become a victim again, with no benefit at all to the perpetrator, since he or she remains unchanged, just as wicked as before. Relationships are, by definition, two-sided.

    Relationship just cannot happen unilaterally. So while it's true that we mustn't hold grudges, neither can we create genuine relationships between ourselves and people who are being unrepentantly wicked.

    What is possible, as in God's relationship with us, will be decided on two sides, not just one. God has done all He needs to make it possible for us to come to Him; but we still need to be made into the right kind of people for eternal fellowship with Him. That never happens one-sidedly. Because God grants us the dignity of personhood, and because relationships are impossible with those deprived of choice, we also must choose whether or not we will forsake our sin, the One whom we will serve, and whether or not we will cooperate with the Spirit's transforming work. All of that is necessary if we are to be fit companions for God.

    We cannot imagine a better forgiver than the Lord. From Him we have our pattern, and also the limits of forgiveness.