social forgiveness

Some recent circumstances have plunged me into thoughts about reconciliation and the social dynamics of forgiveness. Forgiveness is always hard, but I think it's even harder for people to forgive as a group. We'll personally say "No hard feelings," but then feel it's still very important for the wrongdoer to go through the punishment that the society demands or the slow, painful process of regaining the community's good favor.

I think that's because we rely a lot on the ability of our society or community to restrain potential wrongdoers or bring them back into obedience if they do wrong. We need to feel that security. That our social structure can protect us, or restore order when it breaks down. If we feel that people "get away" with wrongs, or that our community cannot bring wrongdoers to submit to the group, then we feel unsafe, always under threat.

So forgiving as Jesus tells us to seems unthinkable to the social body. To just forgive without demanding repayment or some other form of submission to the group would leave us feeling that we have no control over evil among us. But I think that is an important part of forgiveness. Not just freeing the wrongdoer from shame or punishment, but also freeing us from the pressure to prevent and control evil ourselves. We can forgive because we know God is still in control. We can be vulnerable because we know our Father is watching over us. We rely on him, not on our social structure, not on ourselves. He is our security.

And he tells us to trust him and forgive.