Christine A. Scheller—How Far Should Forgiveness Go?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"Forgiving love is a possibility only for those who know that they are not good, who feel themselves in need of divine mercy, who live in a dimension deeper and higher than that of moral idealism, feel themselves as well as their fellow men convicted of sin by a holy God and know that the differences between the good man and the bad man are insignificant in his sight."
—Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics

I wish I could believe every one of these words from Reinhold Niebuhr. Instinctually, I don't, wishing instead for Dante's hell for certain kinds of sinners—like corrupt pastors who egregiously violate their calling and never repent. In my unregenerate opinion, I believe these types of sinners should be relegated to the eighth and ninth circles of Dante's Inferno.

I've read numerous books on forgiveness. Some of them lead me to conclude that the authors have never known the kind of spiritual betrayal some Christians, including myself, have known. If they did, they could never write the pabulum they are selling.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & Family* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

Posted October 26, 2010 at 8:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Cranmerian wrote:

How appropriate that the Gospel lesson for Trinity XXII in the 1928 Lectionary is Matthew 18:21ff.  “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”

Thanks for sharing this, and look forward to reading it in its entirety.

October 26, 9:55 am | [comment link]
2. Timothy Fountain wrote:

Thanks for sharing this.  Good article and I appreciate the way she searches the Scriptures and Christian writers to find God’s help.  When I read the teaser, I thought, “Oh, here goes, ‘feelings’ trump Christ.”  But the article is nothing like that and I was humbled reading it.

Last Sunday, I had the congregation look at the edited parts of the Epistle from II Timothy 4.  Paul makes a distinction between a guy named Alexander who was seriously evil and harmful, and a list of other Christians who were simply disappointing.

Of the evil guy, Paul says “The Lord will deal with him.”  That’s where Scheller winds up in her article.  She speaks of the need for disciples to forego justice while deepening relationship with God.  But Paul also warns (and instructs others to spread the word) about Alexander, which supports Scheller’s points about the church’s need to confront evil and protect people.

Of the merely disappointing folks, Paul says, “May it not be held against them.”  He puts flesh and bones on forgiveness by asking Timothy to bring Mark, who had disappointed Paul in the past.

Ultimately, Paul gives us the same point at which Scheller’s piece arrives - deeper relationship with God is the only answer.  Paul is able to waive justice and show mercy because he recognizes that Christ stands by him to bring him through every situation to the heavenly kingdom.

October 26, 10:31 am | [comment link]
3. DonGander wrote:

Outstanding article.

My wife and I have also struggled with these attitudes trying to figure out just what our actions and attitudes should be in a case like this. But in the end we do all that we can by placing in the care of the One on the cross and realizing that it is no sin to be betrayed. From the article:

“And yet, I cannot seriously wish hell upon corrupt spiritual leaders while clinging to my faith in the mercy of God for my son and for myself. Suicide casts on those left in its wake unanswerable questions and a pall of guilt for sins both real and imagined. Thus the distance has closed in my mind between myself and all the clergymen I would so easily condemn. I yield ground in my resistance to cheap grace, because my unforgiving heart is broken, and because the sinner I am most concerned about is my son.”

Where else can one rationally end?


October 26, 11:05 am | [comment link]
4. sophy0075 wrote:

Being a miserable sinner, I indulge in wistful thoughts of certain evil people suffering in those Dantean circles too. Then I remember how Jesus suffered horrifically and died because of my sins, and am grateful that the Triune God did not allow my condemnation to stand, but had Jesus pay the blood price for me.

On Judgment Day, God will deal with us all - fairly, for the unrepentant and unbelieving; graciously for the few who have proclaimed Him Lord.

October 26, 11:47 am | [comment link]
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