Forgiveness does not excuse evil

THE Jewish Talmud says the normal life span of a quarrel is two or three days. If resentment extends into the fourth day, it is because you choose to hold on to it.
The problem is that forgiveness is more than an emotion. It is a decision.

A Hebrew expression sometimes used is “Yemach shemo’’, which means, “May his name be erased’’.

It is used whenever a great enemy of the Jewish nation, past or present, is mentioned and is based on the Talmud’s “obligation to hate’’ the hopelessly wicked.

Yet the Talmud also clearly states that forgiveness is a virtue.

Christians maintain that no human being is unloved by the God whose son died on his or her behalf.

Forgiveness is not the same as excusing evil. It does not mean evildoers are excused from consequences of actions.

In Forgiveness: Breaking The Chain of Hate, author Michael Henderson says forgiveness does not condone evil, and evil, on its part, cannot extinguish the power of forgiveness.

“It is important at the outset to recognise what forgiveness is not,’’ he says. “Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat for other people to walk over. It does not mean that we forget what has been done to us or to our people. It does not mean surrendering the right to justice.

People have to face the consequences of what they have done.

“Forgiveness is an act that joins moral-historical truth, forbearance from revenge, empathy for wrongdoers, and a commitment to repair a fractured human relationship. If we do not learn to forgive, we will never experience what life really has to offer.’’

Forgiving releases us from the punishment of a self-made prison in which we are both the inmate and the jailer.

Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare. It also recognises that the person we forgive is probably also a victim of their own wrongdoing.

But it always starts with a personal decision. No one can force anyone to forgive or apologise.


One thought on “Forgiveness does not excuse evil

  1. An Arch-deacon once told of his transgression as a child, and his mother’s words – “I can forgive you, but I’ll never forget.” The burden lay just as heavily as before – the forgiveness was worth little.

    Hebrews 8:12, says “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” In the O.T. the Lord tells us that He blots out and forgets our sins for HIS sake, as He does in Isaiah 43:25, which says “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

    “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Yet, many people seem unaware that the measure of our forgiveness is linked to the way we forgive others, as Jesus stated even more definitively in Matthew 6:14-15, where He said “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. ”

    For God, forgiving can be forgetting, dependent on whether we can forget sins of others when we forgive. Memories can be buried and only brought to mind if the sin re-occurs, igniting dead embers with fresh flame.

    We may think forgiveness must be dependent on repentance, and that is a valid supposition.
    If those who have wronged us are unrepentant we would find forgiveness very difficult, and even if we can achieve it there is no benefit to them or us in telling them we are forgiving them. Did Jesus tell his executioners he was forgiving them, or did he pray “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)?


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