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John Thomasil wrote:

Hi, guys —

I had an interesting discussion with my wife last night. I told her I forgive my ex— for what she did to me, (cheated on me, left, marriage annulled), but not for what she did to our daughters.

My wife said we have to forgive.

I said we have to forgive the bad that has been done to us (and forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us) but not what someone has done to someone else.

She said yes, you do.

  • I said, So do I have to forgive Hitler and Stalin and Mao for the millions of people that they killed?

She said yes.

I don't hate my ex—, nor do I hate abortionists, terrorists, child molesters or blasphemers, but I don't forgive them, either.

  • Am I really supposed to forgive them too?

John

  { Does forgiving those who trespass against us also include forgiving others like Hitler, Stalin, etc.? }

Bob replied:

John,

Thanks for the question. You both have points that the other side should consider.

Technically, you only have the power to forgive someone who has wronged you. It is up to the other injured parties to forgive offenses done to them. That is part of the scandal that Christ incurred when he dared to forgive people for offenses they had committed to other parties (How many times do your remember hearing Jesus say, "Your sins are forgiven"?) — that is the province of God alone. What is amazing is that Jesus shared that power, that He legitimately held because He is God, with the Apostles (cf. John 20:21-23). So, we have access to objective forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession that comes from God Himself. Pretty amazing.

All that being said, we are bound to forgive to the very best of our ability, for to hold on to anything out of any malice whatsoever may come back to be our very judgement.

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us . ."

While this may seem to narrow the scope of what we are required to forgive, (to just what offends us), keep in mind that our knowledge of offenses toward others is an offense against us, and thereby becomes part of the package.

We can't escape the fact that when we see others hurt, it hurts us, and thereby it becomes an offense against us because of our involvement with those persons, especially when we love them. That is why every sin we commit against another person is also a sin against God.

  • See how that works?

What further complicates this is that some people don't repent of their sins. They never ask for forgiveness. In that case, God doesn't mete out unconditional forgiveness, certainly not for serious sin. Not all sins are forgiven. There are plenty of people in Hell. People who want God's forgiveness must have some manner of contrition in their heart. Even a child who deliberately breaks something and then realizes the impending punishment, will ask for forgiveness to soften the blow. If not, he incurs a more severe wrath. God will never withhold forgiveness — unless the person persists in unrepentant sin to the end: no contrition, no sorrow, no asking for forgiveness, no forgiveness.

  • So, are we to adopt the same stance as God? <Yes and no>.

In one sense, an unrepentant offender has lost his right to be in our circle of friendship and trust, therefore we are not demanded to reinstate someone as such when they haven't the slightest intention to change. That would be insanity and folly. So, in this way we act like God does, in justice (which looks much like unforgiveness).

But unlike God, we are not the Final Judge. We can't see and know all things, nor can we read people's hearts, nor predict final repentance so, we must forgive, in as much as we can, and let it go into the hands of God to deal with. To hold on to those things is ultimately to declare ourselves the final judge and in a way we supplant the role of God, thereby incurring the judgement we pray about in the Lord's prayer.

God doesn't ask us to pretend things weren't wrong or that no one was hurt, but rather to trust Him to sort it out in the end. You have a great challenge, because as a father, you want to protect your children and there is nothing more searing than seeing them hurt. Many men have been forced to watched their families subjected to horrors in war and other evils that I can't even imagine enduring. Mary watched her Son Jesus tortured and butchered on a Cross, but he said:

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

  • Would she have done any less?

That is the ultimate act of trust and abandonment to God; knowing He is Our Vindicator, Judge and Destiny. Put it in His Hands and your soul will be at peace.

This could be a good conversation for you and your wife to explore more, but in the end, it becomes a matter of the heart and letting go, trusting God and loving even our enemies.

Nobody said Christianity was easy.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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